Dr. Paul Bowman, chairman and professor of Pediatrics, is leading a collaboration between Cook Children's Medical Center and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital on a pioneering new acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treatment. For the first time, St. Jude allowed children to participate in the protocol study without being referred to the home base of St. Jude - Memphis.
The study established that children's survival rates would not be compromised by eliminating radiation with the use of highly effective chemotherapy regimens. Cranial radiation treatment controlled leukemia that impacted the central nervous system. But radiation side effects included stunting growth and height, as well as impacting intellect and cognitive function in a negative fashion.
The findings of the two institution's research can be found in the June 25, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. Bowman co-authored the article, along with Amy Bayles, nurse practitioner of the leukemia program at Cook Children's.
"The main reason it's in The New England Journal of Medicine, the world's most prestigious medical journal, is the observation that the elimination of radiation therapy upfront in patients with leukemia has not had a negative impact on their survival rate," Bowman said. "And that's news that people are going to pay attention to."
Recently, an international focus was placed on becoming more restrained in the use of radiation therapy, limiting it to only those patients in need and only using the minimum dosage necessary.
St. Jude began the study in 2000 and it was launched at Cook Children's in February 2004 and lasted until July 2007. The study involved 498 total patients, with 90 Cook Children's patients with ALL enrolled.
The hypothesis of the study was that patients' survival rates would not be compromised by eliminating radiation at the beginning of treatment. The results seem to show that's the case with a 93.5 percent survival rate during the course of the study and a long-term remission rate of 85.6 percent.
"These are the best results that have ever been achieved at St. Jude and certainly the best results we have had at Cook Children's," Bowman said."Of course it's all about cure in the first place."
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