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Semin Hematol. 2013 Jul;50(3):185-96. doi: 10.1053/j.seminhematol.2013.06.007.

A 50-year journey to cure childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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1
Departments of Oncology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. ching-hon.pui@stjude.org

Abstract

The 50th anniversary of Seminars in Hematology coincides with the 50th anniversary of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and both milestones are inexorably linked to studies contributing to the cure of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). We thought it fitting, therefore, to mark these events by traveling back in time to point out some of the achievements, institutions, study groups, and individuals that have made cure of childhood ALL a reality. In many instances, progress was driven by new ideas, while in others it was driven by new experimental tools that allowed more precise assessment of the biology of leukemic blasts and their utility in selecting therapy. We also discuss a number of contemporary advances that point the way to exciting future directions. Whatever pathways are taken, a clear challenge will be to use emerging genome-based or immunologic-based treatment options in ways that will enhance, rather than duplicate or compromise, recent gains in outcome with classic cytotoxic chemotherapy. The theme of this journey serves as a reminder of the chief ingredient of any research directed to a catastrophic disease such as ALL. It is the audacity of a small group of investigators who confronted a childhood cancer with the goal of cure, not palliation, as their mindset.

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