Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is a rare cancer. It affects about 3,000 adults in the United States each year. The incidence of the disease increases with age. It is less common among women and African Americans.
In children, however, ALL is the most common form of leukemia. It accounts for about three-quarters of pediatric leukemia cases. If you are a young adult who has been diagnosed with ALL, you may receive the same treatments that are used for children with ALL.
Our doctors perform many tests to diagnose ALL. Tests allow us to understand specific things about the cells for the leukemia you have. We can look for genetic changes, particularly rearrangements in chromosomes. Chromosomes are tightly coiled strands of DNA. They contain all the information that cells need to function normally and reproduce. Rearrangements in chromosomes are common in ALL. Other tests look for specific proteins called antigens. They appear on the surface of leukemia cells.
Chemotherapy and stem cell (bone marrow) transplantation are the standard approaches for adult-onset ALL. The treatment that we recommend for you will depend on the specific features of the disease. For example, if you are diagnosed with Philadelphia-positive ALL, you may receive targeted therapies. You may also receive a kind of immunotherapy in which your own immune cells are trained to seek out and destroy the cancer, called CAR T cell therapy.