Last update on: 04/09/2009
Together with German and Dutch specialists, the St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute developed a special PCR (polymerase chain reaction) method, a further positive development in paediatric cancer research for the treatment of leukemia .
With the help of this highly-sensitive detection method, minimal amounts of tumour cells dispersed in the body can be detected at very precise points in time during the course of the treatment protocol. This is particularly essential for the prognosis and the further therapeutic strategy: How fast is the number of leukemia cells dropping? In the past, only a rough estimate with a microscope was possible.
This makes it possible to considerably improve the treatment of children with ALL (acute lymphatic leukemia ) and to reduce the risk of regression.
Examining the method in detail
4 to 5 weeks after treatment has started when no more cells have been in the bone marrow for some time, it can be determined whether the number of residual leukemia cells amounts to 1:100,000 or 1:1 million, which is considered optimal.
"Already after 5 weeks, we are able to say with a probability of over 90% that no regression will occur."
Prof. Helmut Gadner
Head of the Children’s Cancer Research Institute,
Medical director of the St. Anna Children’s Hospital
and coordinator of “Overcoming Cancer with Research”
In the 12th week, the result is examined again.
Thanks to the PCR method, one can use a less aggressive treatment regime for ALL patients with a favourable prognosis. .
Unlike in the past, fewer treatments with radiation are also necessary. It is not absolutely necessary to transplant stem cells.