Customized Pediatric Leukemia Care
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common form of cancer in children. There has been great success in treating this cancer, with up to 90 percent of patients cured of their disease and able to go on to live healthy, productive lives. NewYork-Presbyterian's pediatric leukemia experts have extensive experience treating ALL and all forms of leukemia in children and adolescents.
We examine the genetic features of your child's cancer and choose the treatments that are most likely to work best. Since leukemia treatment can be lengthy, we also provide care for your child and family to address your nonmedical needs, offering psychosocial and educational support and integrative health approaches to boost your wellness. Our goal is to achieve a cure with as few short-term and long-term side effects as possible.
Types of leukemia
We care for children with all types of pediatric leukemia, including:
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (the most common type)
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
- Rarer subtypes such as juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML)
Leukemia signs & symptoms
Mature white blood cells in your body help fight infection. Leukemia can develop when changes happen in immature white blood cells that keep them from developing normally. They grow and multiply uncontrollably, collect in organs throughout the body, and don't allow normal blood cells to form. If this happens, your child may experience symptoms such as:
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Bruising easily
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Joint pain
- Pain in the abdomen
How we diagnose leukemia
We will perform several tests to determine if your child has leukemia and if so, identify what type. All tests are done with your child's comfort in mind. Your child may have:
- Physical exam
- Blood tests may show low levels of red blood cells (anemia) and platelets (clotting cells) and high levels of abnormal white blood cells
- Biopsy of enlarged lymph nodes by world-class hematopathologists
- Bone marrow analysis
- Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to look for cancer cells, using a spinal tap to take a sample of this liquid from the area around the lower spine
Our approach to care
Leukemia care is available at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children's Hospital. Our pediatric cancer care physicians and oncology nurses have the expertise and compassion to treat children with leukemia and include internationally recognized experts in pediatric leukemia care. They work with social workers, child life specialists, art therapists, registered dietitians, integrative health professionals, and others to ensure that your child's experience with leukemia care is as comfortable and seamless as it can be. Leukemia treatment may last up to three years, so we get to know you and your child very well and treat you like family.
Pediatric leukemia treatments
We evaluate every child's cancer for genetic features. The test results help us choose the most effective therapies. Armed with this knowledge, we offer every pediatric leukemia treatment available, including:
Chemotherapy. Treatment using combinations of anticancer drugs forms the mainstay of therapy for children with leukemia. Some leukemia medications may be given intrathecally, meaning the medication is delivered directly into the CSF using a needle or a tube while your child is under light anesthesia. Others are given by intravenous infusion (by vein). Chemotherapy for leukemia is typically given in stages:
- Initial induction therapy is designed to rid the body of detectable leukemia cells so your child can start making normal blood cells again
- Consolidation therapy aims to kill any leukemia cells that may be lurking in the brain, spinal cord, or bone marrow
- Maintenance therapy, a treatment for ALL to reduce the chance that leukemia will come back
CAR T-cell immunotherapy. If your child has ALL that has continued to grow or came back despite prior treatment, they may be eligible to receive CAR T-cell therapy. NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital is certified to provide this "living therapy," in which a patient's T cells are removed, modified in a lab to recognize lymphoma cells, multiplied, and then returned to the patient to detect and destroy cancer cells. Learn more about CAR T-cell therapy.
Stem cell transplantation. If your child's leukemia does not respond well to other therapies, we may recommend stem cell transplantation: the donation of healthy stem cells from a matched donor to a patient in need. Our pediatric leukemia teams include specialists in bone marrow and stem cell transplantation, which is provided at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. We also have expertise in cord blood transplants and the transplantation of stem cells from a partially matched donor to a patient.
Targeted therapy. CML is often treated using a targeted therapy called imatinib, which is taken orally (by mouth).
Investigational treatments. Your child may have opportunities to participate in clinical trials of innovative therapies for pediatric leukemia, conducted by Columbia University and Weill Cornell Medicine investigators. For the remaining 10 percent of children whose leukemia continues to come back, clinical trials of new treatment regimens may offer hope.
Why choose us
Leukemia and its treatment can have a variety of other effects on the body. At NewYork-Presbyterian, your child has access to every kind of pediatric specialist available. They collaborate with our pediatric leukemia care teams to treat the whole child, not just the disease. When standard therapies don't work, we don't give up — we try to match your child with a clinical trial of a promising new therapy. You'll receive support every step of your journey. Schedule an appointment as soon as possible so you can begin your child's care.