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Treatment

In general, cure and remission rates of leukaemia continue to improve for both children and adults.

Symptomatic treatment may include red blood cell and/or platelet transfusions and antibiotic therapy. If the spleen is too swollen, it may need to be surgically removed.

Specific treatment depends on the type, severity and symptoms. Chemotherapy is usually involved. Treatment may also involve targeted therapies which attack specific weaknesses in the leukaemic cells. The goals of treatment are to, if possible, kill all of the leukaemic cells, push the disease into remission, and to restore normal production of blood cells. Radiation therapy is sometimes employed to kill cells and to relieve pain. If leukaemia cells have migrated into the cerebrospinal fluid, chemotherapy drugs that are injected directly into the spinal fluid may be required.

In some cases, the patient’s own cells may be collected, frozen, and reintroduced after a course of chemotherapy to “clean” the abnormal cells - autologous stem cell transplant. Allogeneic stem cell transplants (using stem cells collected by peripheral blood or bone marrow from a compatible donor - most frequently a family member) are sometimes used to cure selected cases of leukaemia. Autologous or allogeneic stem cell transplants may be considered when other treatment regimens have failed to push the leukaemia into remission, or when the leukaemia has recurred.

Patients are encouraged to discuss with their treating doctor the various treatment options, including new treatments that might be available through clinical trials.


Last Review Date: December 30, 2018