St. Jude leukemia therapy overcomes differences in treatment outcome between black, white children

(MEMPHIS, TENN.--October 14, 2003) Investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have found that black children are equally likely as white children to benefit from improved treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), if given equal access to the most advanced therapies.

This finding--that black and white children had virtually equal rates of survival over 10 years--contrasts with the results of clinical studies from the Pediatric Oncology Group (POG) and Children's Cancer Group (CCG). The POG and CCG multi-center studies showed that black children lagged behind white children in the cure rate for ALL.

Even though black children referred to St. Jude were more likely to have high-risk leukemia and be socioeconomically underprivileged, they enjoyed the same excellent treatment results as white children, according to Ching-Hon Pui, M.D., director of the St. Jude Leukemia/Lymphoma division.

Pui is senior author of this study, which appears in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Despite black children presenting with more bulky disease at diagnosis and having unfavorable genetic subtypes of leukemia, the St. Jude treatment was able to achieve high cure rates that were equal in black and white children.

"It's remarkable that, although African-American children with ALL are more likely than white children to have high-risk leukemia, the black children in our studies derived as much benefit from therapy as white children," said William Evans, Pharm.D., St. Jude scientific director and a co-author of the study. "This is apparently due to the modifications we made to our previous, very successful therapies for ALL, making those treatments even more effective."

One factor contributing to the treatment success rate among black children is that all St. Jude patients received a personally tailored approached to treatment--called risk-directed therapy--regardless of health insurance s

Contact: Bonnie Cameron
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

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