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Is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia the Same in Every Patient?

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Published on January 7, 2020

Key Takeaways

  • ALL diagnostics and care are evolving, and new tests are available to understand what the diagnosis means for each individual patient. 
  • Genetic testing can help play a role in response to treatment and prognosis.
  • Genes associated with ALL are not inherited. They are mutated or become abnormal unique to malignant cells. 

How does acute lymphoblastic leukemia differ from patient to patient? Noted expert Dr. Ryan Cassaday from the University of Washington School of Medicine discusses the two different lineages of ALL, some key genetic distinctions and how this impacts prognosis and treatment. Watch now to learn more from an ALL expert. 



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Transcript | Is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia the Same in Every Patient?

And then going even deeper into the sort of genomic and genetic level there are—another key distinction is the Philadelphia chromosome, the BCR‑ABL translocation, which is more commonly associated with CML but is also really important in ALL.  But depending on the age range anywhere from 5 to 50 percent of patients with ALL will have that genetic abnormality.  That's really important in terms of deciding treatment and prognosis. 

Up until maybe five‑ish, 10 years ago maybe that was kind of the key distinction really in terms of making treatment decisions, but it's gotten a lot more sophisticated recently with increased understanding of other genetic pathways that are important that might predict response to treatment, might confer a certain prognosis. 

And you're absolutely right.  Genes that we talk about in this disease are not genes that you inherited in a defective manner from your parents or that you could pass along to your children.  These are genes that get mutated or become abnormal in the context of developing the ALL, so they're very specific and unique to the malignant cells. 

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