NCCN publishes pediatric ALL guidelines



The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has issued new clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

“The cure rate for pediatric ALL in the U.S. has risen from 0% in the 1960s to nearly 90% today. This is among the most profound medical success stories in history,” Patrick Brown, MD, of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, said in a statement announcing the guidelines. Dr. Brown chairs the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines for adult and pediatric ALL.

“Pediatric ALL survivors live a long time; we have to consider long-term effects as well,” Hiroto Inaba, MD, PhD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, and vice chair of the guidelines committee, said in the statement.

The new recommendations highlight the importance of supportive care interventions in an effort to reduce the chances of patients experiencing severe adverse effects.

The pediatric ALL guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations about optimal treatment strategies for ALL to prolong survival in children affected, with a focus on treatment outside of clinical trials (Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia., Version 1.2019, published May 30, 2019).

While treatment for ALL often includes long-term chemotherapy regimens that involve multiple stages, several novel treatment strategies are summarized in the guidelines, including various types of immunotherapy and targeted therapy.

The guidelines are intended to accompany the NCCN Guidelines for Adult ALL and integrate treatment recommendations for patients in overlapping age categories. The recommendations are organized based on risk level, which may also be associated with age.

“The highest risk [is] associated with those diagnosed within the first 12 months of life or between the ages 10 and 21 years old,” the guideline authors wrote.

Another unique aspect of the guidelines is the recognition of vulnerable populations, such as young infants or children with Down syndrome, who face distinct treatment challenges. The authors provide guidance on the best supportive care measures for these patients.

The NCCN is currently expanding the collection of clinical practice guidelines for additional pediatric malignancies. At present, they are planning to undertake a minimum of 90% of all incident pediatric cancers.

Upcoming guidelines include treatment recommendations for pediatric Burkitt lymphoma, and are scheduled for release later in 2019.

Future efforts include modifying the guidelines for use in low- and middle-income countries, with the goal of providing direction in resource-limited environments.

“We know that many, many children can be cured with inexpensive and widely-available therapies,” Dr. Brown said. “With the increasing global reach of the NCCN Guidelines, we can really pave the way for increasing the cure rates throughout the world.”

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