Common childhood leukaemia now curable

Acute lymphocytic leukaemia – the most common childhood cancer – can now be cured, says the Alberts Cellular Therapy unit at the Netcare Pretoria East hospital.
"Each leukaemia case is unique but with the necessary technology and care, patients can actually be cured," unit head Dr Jackie Thomson, also a clinical haematologist at the hospital, said in a statement on Wednesday.

She said new drugs and treatments were available to fight the disease. It could be successfully treated at centres able to provide the appropriate and highly specialised treatment.

The survival rate had increased from three percent to about 90% in the past 40 years.

"Bone-marrow transplantation, which helps remove cancer cells from a patient's system, is usually used as part of the treatment protocol."

Although the transplant was believed to be risky, centres specialising in the treatment of leukaemia and other blood disorders achieved good outcomes, said Thomson.

Another method used was hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

The method was used to treat a range of blood disorders, lymph cancers and metabolic disorders, sickle-cell disease, myelodysplastic syndrome, Ewing's sarcoma, Hodgkin's disease, and others.

Gene testing enabled doctors to target their treatment and determine the most appropriate procedures, she said.

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