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Between 1990 and 2005, five-year survival for children and adolescents with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) increased from 83.7 percent to 90.4 percent. These results were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

ALL—a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells—is the most commonly diagnosed type of leukemia in children. Each year, there are approximately 6,000 new cases of ALL diagnosed in theUnited States.

In recent decades, progress made in clinical trials has led to substantial improvements in survival for children diagnosed with ALL. In the 1960s, five-year survival for children with ALL was less than 10 percent. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, this figure had increased to 77 percent.

To explore more-recent trends in ALL outcomes, researchers collected information about more than 21,000 children and adolescents who had participated in clinical trials conducted by the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). The study participants had been diagnosed with ALL between 1990 and 2005, and were between the ages of 0 and 22 years at the time of diagnosis.

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The Children’s Oncology Group involves more than 200 institutions in theUnited States,Canada,Australia, andNew Zealand.

  • Five-year survival increased from 83.7 percent during 1990-1994 to 90.4 percent during 2000-2005.
  • Survival increased for all groups of patients except those under the age of 1 year. Five-year survival in infants remained fairly steady at slightly over 50 percent.

This study highlights the ongoing improvement in outcomes for children and adolescents with ALL. Maintaining high levels of participation in clinical trials will be important for further progress. Areas in which progress is needed include the treatment of infants with ALL.

Reference: Hunger SP, Lu X, Devidas M et al. Improved survival for children and adolescents with acute lymphoblastic leukemia between 1990 and 2005: a report from the Children’s Oncology Group. Journal of Clinical Oncology. Early online March 12, 2012.

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