Gene expression profiling can help doctors accurately identify subtypes of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), according to the October 15, 2003, issue of Blood, the official journal of the American Society of Hematology. Diagnosing a subtype of ALL can allow physicians to customize a treatment program based on a patients likelihood of responding to therapy.
Pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia has a number of subtypes, each with unique cellular and molecular characteristics. Since the subtype may also imply a less favorable prognosis, it is critical to diagnose each individual patients subtype so that therapy can be tailored to reduce the chance of a relapse. ALL patients currently have a 70 to 80 percent chance of surviving the disease, but the odds of survival decrease following a relapse.
ALL subtypes are used to assign patients to risk groups. Risk group assignment is an important element of cancer care because it allows physicians to avoid overtreating patients who are at low risk of relapse, while ensuring optimal treatment for patients with a high risk of relapse. Patients are currently classified into risk groups based on factors such as age and gender, white blood cell count, the presence or absence of leukemia in cerebral spinal fluid, and genetic characteristics of the leukemic cells. These risk features were identified from epidemiological studies and have resulted in excellent overall long-term survival rates, but gene expression profiling may provide an even more precise profile of a patients disease.
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