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Front Pharmacol. 2013 Apr 19;4:49. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2013.00049. eCollection 2013.

After the chemotherapy: potential mechanisms for chemotherapy-induced delayed skeletal muscle dysfunction in survivors of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in childhood.

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  • 1Cancer Nutrition Rehabilitation Program, Department of Oncology, McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada ; The Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Segal Cancer Centre, Jewish General Hospital Montreal, QC, Canada.


There is evidence that survivors of childhood cancers, such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), have increased rates of long-term skeletal muscle dysfunction. This places them at higher risk of physical restriction and functional impairment as well as potentially contributing to observed increases in cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance in later life. The mechanisms underlying these changes in skeletal muscle are unknown but chemotherapy drugs used in treatment for ALL are strongly implicated. Normal skeletal muscle growth, development, and function are dependent on correctly functioning muscle satellite cells, muscle motor neurons, and muscle mitochondria. Each of these key components is potentially susceptible to damage by chemotherapy in childhood, particularly prolonged courses including repeated administration of combination chemotherapy. If this chemotherapy-induced damage is not fully reversible, impairment of satellite cells, muscle motor innervation, and mitochondria could, either singly or together, lead to the emergence of delayed or persistent skeletal muscle dysfunction many years later. The known effects of individual drugs used in the treatment of ALL are outlined and the need for specific targeted studies to investigate the mechanisms underlying persistent muscle dysfunction in survivors of ALL and other childhood cancers is highlighted.


acute lymphoblastic leukemia; cancer survivors; chemotherapy; motor neurons; muscle dysfunction; muscle mitochondria; muscle satellite cells; skeletal muscle

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