Will novel agents for ALL finally change the natural history?
Pediatric acute lymphoblast
ic leukemia (ALL) cure rates have markedly improved over the past years to approximately 85%, but remain at 40%-50% in adults. Redefining current adult chemotherapy regimens is likely to improve the natural course of the disease, but new agents are needed. Immunotherapy approaches for pre-B ALL are in the forefront of research on novel agents; in particular, advances are being made in manipulating autologous T cells either by infusion of a bifunctional antibody (eg, blinatumomab) or by ex vivo genetic modification of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). The natural course of Philadelphia positive ALL has already improved by targeting ABL/BCR1. Other mutated genes are being discovered and novel small molecules that target their products are being studied in clinical trials. Finally, ALL is a heterogeneous disease and novel agents are likely to impact the natural course of smaller populations of biologically defined ALL subtypes.