Your child may undergo the following four types of treatment:


Chemotherapy involves drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs may be taken orally or may be injected into by a needle into a vein or muscle. This type of therapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body and can kill cancer cells throughout the body. For acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chemotherapy drugs may be injected through the spine into the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This is known as intrathecal chemotherapy.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation for acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) usually comes from a machine outside the body, called external beam radiation therapy.

Bone Marrow Transplant

The first step of bone marrow transplant (BMT) involves high doses of chemotherapy, sometimes with radiation, to destroy all of your child's bone marrow. Healthy marrow from a donor, whose tissue is the same as or almost the same as your child's, is transplanted into your child. The donor may be a twin, who is the best match; a brother or sister; or other person not related. The healthy marrow from a donor is given to your child intravenously through a needle in a vein to replace the marrow that was destroyed. This process, involving marrow from a donor, is called an allogeneic bone marrow transplant.

Another type of bone marrow transplant, called an autologous transplant, is being studied in clinical trials. The marrow is taken from your child and treated with drugs to kill cancer cells. The marrow is frozen and saved. Your child then is given a high-dose chemotherapy, sometimes with radiation, to destroy all of your child's bone marrow. The frozen marrow that was saved is thawed and transplanted back into your child, injected intravenously through a needle in a vein. For the most part, autologous bone marrow transplants have not been effective in treating acute myelogenous leukemia.

Biological Therapy

Biological therapy attempts to stimulate or restore the ability of your child's immune system to fight cancer. It uses substances produced by your child's body, or made in a laboratory, to boost, direct or restore the natural defenses against disease. Biological therapy is sometimes called biological response modifier therapy or immunotherapy.

To learn more, please see leukemia treatment options.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Cancer & Blood Disease

Blood & Marrow Transplant Program
1975 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-2188
Fax: (415) 502-4867
Appointment information

Treatment Center
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2584
Fax: (415) 353-2600
Appointment information

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