Overview

Leukemia is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in children. It is a type of cancer of immature white blood cells that grow out of control and interfere with normal blood cell reduction. This results in anemia and an increased risk for infection and bleeding. Leukemia begins in the bone marrow, the spongy material in the center of our bones that is the factory for blood cell production.

There are four different types of leukemia in children: 

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) 80%
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) 15%
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) 2%
  • Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMMC) 1%

Learn more about leukemia at the National Cancer Institute and CureSearch websites.

Our Approach

Our leukemia program has state-of-the-art diagnosis and care and access to clinical trials. Our physicians work in consultation with leading hematopathologists and other specialists (blood bank, infectious disease, etc.) and provide compassionate and personalized care for all patients.

Expertise in Diagnosing Leukemia

The hematopathologists at Massachusetts General Hospital are world renowned for their expertise in the diagnosis of various types of childhood leukemia. The pathology department has state-of-the-art technology, including

  • Advanced microscopy
  • Flow cytometry for diagnosing subtypes of leukemia and detecting minimal residual disease
  • Cytogenetic technologies to examine chromosomes of leukemia cells
  • Molecular evaluation of leukemia for diagnostic, prognostic, and research purposes

Research and Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies testing new drugs or combinations of already approved drugs in novel ways. The development of clinical trials over the past 40 years for children with leukemia has led to the high cure rates our patients enjoy today. We work with the Children's Oncology Group (COG), a national pediatric clinical trials group, to develop innovative therapies for childhood leukemia. In addition, we have collaborations with our adult leukemia specialists at Mass General to help identify new drug targets.