Combo Therapy Helps Beat a Common Childhood Leukemia

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY April 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Combining stem cell transplants with advanced immunotherapy prevents relapses of leukemia in young people and improves their chances of survival, new research shows.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common childhood cancer.

This study included 50 patients (aged 4 to 30 years) with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who received CAR-T cell therapy. The treatment genetically modifies a patient’s own immune cells to make them more effective at killing cancer. (CAR is a shorthand for chimeric antigen receptor.)

While CAR-T cell therapy provides complete remission between 60% and 100% of patients initially, many relapse. One study found that over 40% had relapsed 13 months after treatment.

This study investigated whether stem cell transplants could help prevent relapses in patients who underwent treatment with CAR T cells.

Of 21 patients who received donor stem cell transplants after CAR T cell therapy, 9.5% had relapsed 24 months later, according to the study. All of the patients who had not had a stem cell transplant had relapsed by this time.


The results – recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology – suggest that stem cell transplants offer long-term benefits for young patients who receive CAR T cell therapy, according to researchers at the University of Virginia.

“Over 50% of children in other studies with different CAR relapse, with the majority of them losing the target of the CAR going,” said Dr. Daniel Lee, a pediatric oncologist and transplant director. of pediatric stem cells and UVA immunotherapy at Charlottesville Children’s Hospital.

“Most of these kids have just one injection of this life-saving, paradigm-changing therapy called CAR T cells. We need to do whatever we can to maximize the chances of a cure, and right now that means a transplant after CAR therapy for the most part, ”added Lee.

He noted that many parents are turning to CAR-T cells in hopes of avoiding a stem cell transplant.

“But,” he added, “there is a window of opportunity after RACs to cure more of these incurable children with transplants; our study shows it.”


More information

The American Cancer Society has more on Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

SOURCE: University of Virginia, press release, March 31, 2021

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