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Maintenance treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is given to maintain remission. It is usually given over a long period of time and often lasts for 2–3 years. Maintenance treatments may be shorter if more intense regimens were given in the earlier treatment phases.
Some subtypes of ALL, such as T-cell ALL and Burkitt type leukemia (mature B-cell ALL), may not need maintenance treatment.
Chemotherapy is the primary maintenance treatment for ALL. The drugs are usually given in lower doses and so cause fewer side effects. The most common maintenance regimen includes:
Other drugs that may be added to the regimen include:
Targeted therapy is treatment that uses drugs or other substances to target specific molecules (usually proteins) involved in cancer cell growth while limiting harm to normal cells.
A targeted therapy drug called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor may be added to the chemotherapy regimen for people with leukemia cells that have the Philadelphia chromosome (called Ph+ ALL). The most common targeted therapy used to treat Ph+ ALL is imatinib (Gleevec).
The central nervous system (CNS) is the brain and spinal cord. Treatment given to prevent leukemia cells from spreading to the CNS is called CNS prophylaxis. CNS prophylaxis is started with induction treatment and may continue during consolidation and maintenance treatment with one or more of the following:
Supportive therapy is important during every phase of treatment for ALL. It is used to treat the complications that usually happen with treatments for ALL and the disease itself.
Supportive therapy during maintenance treatment may include:
You may be asked if you want to join a clinical trial for ALL. Find out more about clinical trials.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.