Young patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) can benefit from already existing treatments, according to a study published in The Lancet Oncology (2010 May 5 [Epub ahead of print]).

The study, led by researchers from St. Jude Children’s Hospital, involved 230 young AML patients who ranged in age from 2 days to 21 years old. Patients initially received a three-drug combination therapy, including either a high or low dose of the anticancer drug cytarabine. Following the first and second courses of chemotherapy, investigators used genetic factors and minimal residual disease (MRD) screening to determine additional care a patient received.

The study revealed that more individualized therapy and better supportive scare helped increase survival of the children to 71%. According to the authors, the survival rate of 71% is 20% better than previously reported U.S. rates.

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“In this study, we focused on getting the maximum benefit from existing therapies and applying lessons leaned from earlier studies to identify and treat patients who faced the highest risk of relapse,” said Jeffrey Rubnitz, MD, PhD, a member of the St. Jude Oncology Department.

 The study not only marked the first time MRD was used to guide the timing and makeup of later chemotherapy, but it was also the first time all patients received antibiotics after each course of chemotherapy.