Children with Down syndrome are at high risk for developing B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (DS-ALL) associated with poor outcome due to both a high relapse rate and increased treatment-related mortality (TRM) from infections. Biologically, these heterogeneous leukemias are characterized by under-representation of the common cytogenetic subgroups of childhood ALL and overrepresentation of CRLF2-IL7R-JAK-STAT activating genetic aberrations. Although relapse is the major determinant of poor outcomes in this population, de-escalation of chemotherapy intensity might be feasible in the 10% to 15% DS-ALL patients with ETV6-RUNX1 or high hyperdipoidy in whom TRM is the major limiting event. As infection-associated TRM occurs during all treatment phases, including the maintenance period, increased surveillance and supportive care is required throughout therapy. Improvement in outcome will require better understanding of the causes of treatment failure and TRM, incorporation of new therapies targeting the unique biological properties of DS-ALL, and enhanced supportive care measures to reduce the risk of infection-related TRM. To facilitate these goals, an international collaboration plans to establish a prospective DS-ALL registry and develop specific supportive care recommendations for this at-risk population.
Shai Izraeli, Ajay Vora, C. Michel Zwaan and James Whitlock
Blood 2014 123:35-40; doi: https://doi.org/10.1182/blood-2013-07-453480