Childhood Cancer

Childhood Leukemia

Information on Current Treatments

Treatments for various types of childhood leukemia evolve and improve over time. The treatments described in this chapter were the ones most commonly used when this book was written. You can learn about the newest treatments available by calling the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at (800) 422-6237 and asking for information on childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This free information, also available online at, explains the disease, state-of-theart treatments, and any ongoing clinical trials. Two versions are available:

  • One for families, which uses simple language and contains no statistics; and
  • One for health professionals, which is technical, thorough, and includes citations to scientific literature.

To learn about current Phase III clinical trials for ALL in children or teens, you can visit the National Cancer Institute’s website and type “Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia” in the “Type/condition” box. Then check the “untreated childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia” box, choose Phase III in the “Trial Phase” box, and select the “Search” button.


When Nico was first diagnosed, I obsessively read everything that I could about leukemia. My anxiety level went through the roof. I soon discovered that most of what is on the internet is outdated. So be wary about where you are doing your research. Write down all of your concerns, and ask your oncologist to specifically address each of them. All parents fear relapse and initially focus on their child’s “odds” of survival. But you will drive yourself crazy worrying about every possible thing that can go wrong at the outset. The odds are in your favor. Expect treatment to go as planned and only deal with those problems that arise. Do not look too far ahead—it is too overwhelming.

Nico’s treatment course had several bumps throughout, but for us induction was still by far and away the most difficult phase. At the end of induction, while holding my screaming, hitting, kicking, biting, and bloated little boy, I told our oncologist through tears, “We already ruined him.” I was wrong. My son is back and this experience has not defined him. He is still my Nico. There are bad days, but we have more good days than bad. Someone once likened this trial to fighting a forest fire. To get through it, you have to focus on extinguishing the flames just in front of you. You do not want to look at the trees in flames. You just focus on one small fire at a time. You put out the fire on the shrub at your feet and move forward. And eventually you and your child will be through the forest.