Timeline for acute lymphoblastic leukemia research at St. Jude
    1962 Survival for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is 4 percent.
    1971 A combination of chemotherapy and cranial irradiation is proven to cure at least half of all children with ALL. This finding revolutionized leukemia therapy worldwide.
    1975 A new drug combination is found to be effective against leukemia that recurred after initial treatment. This leads to improved therapy for hundreds of leukemia patients, especially those with a very high risk of early failure. First evidence found of the existence of different types of ALL in children. This research sets the stage for what later will become a revolution in the understanding and treatment of ALL.
    1991 St. Jude publishes results for a new treatment approach to ALL involving intensive induction therapy followed by more than two years of treatment with eight anti-cancer drugs used on a rotating basis. The findings show an increase in overall long-term survival from 50 to 73 percent, with notable advances in several of the toughest-to-cure groups (infants, adolescents and African Americans).
    1995 Survival rates for African-American children shown to have reached parity with Caucasian children when treated with protocol-based therapy. This improvement is mostly based on advances made in the survival rates for African-American children treated for ALL.
    1998 Researchers determine individualizing the dosage of cancer chemotherapy can increase survival rates for children with ALL without causing excessive toxicity. A study indicates that individualizing a patient’s chemotherapy dosages based on drug elimination can avoid low blood levels of anticancer medicines and thereby improve outcomes for patients with ALL. Based on blood levels measured in each patient, clinicians adjust the amount of medications to avoid underdosing children with fast elimination. This approach allows clinicians to optimize dosages based on the patient’s individual requirement rather than administering the same dosages to all children and proves important in the selection of dosages for future ALL treatment studies.
    1998 Study reveals that the long-term survival rate for ALL has increased from 73 percent to 80 percent.
    2000 St. Jude researchers discovered that pediatric patients with ALL and low platelet counts do not need platelet transfusions before undergoing lumbar punctures. Traditionally, the transfusions have been deemed medically necessary for such patients. The findings are significant because blood resources are often scarce and costly and because transfusions can sometimes cause serious complications for patients.
    2001 Survivors of childhood ALL are at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis, or reduced bone density, according to research from St. Jude.
    2002 Researchers discover that infants treated for ALL whose leukemic cells have an 11q23 chromosomal abnormality do not benefit from bone marrow transplantation. Research indicates that physicians treating these patients should rely on improved chemotherapy.
    2003 Survey of human genome discloses genetic fingerprints of specific subtypes of ALL that might one day permit simplified diagnostic tests for this cancer.
    2003 Survivors of childhood ALL who have not received radiation treatment as part of their therapy have virtually the same long-term life experiences as the general population.
    2003 St. Jude study comparing long-term outcomes of children treated for ALL shows that African-American children can do as well as Caucasian children if given equal access to latest treatments.
    2004 Improved risk classification for patients with ALL, coupled with more intensive intrathecal chemotherapy for high-risk patients and the use of a drug called dexamethasone, could one day permit physicians to omit radiation.
    2004 A relatively small number of genes are linked to either resistance or sensitivity to four major cancer drugs used to treat ALL, suggesting that these genes are key to treatment outcome.
    2004 The ALL survival rate reaches 85 percent.
    2005 The outcome of chemotherapy treatment for ALL depends not only on the acquired genetic make-up of the leukemic cells, but on genes that children inherit from their parents.
    2005 The discovery of a specific pattern of gene expression linked to multiple-drug resistance of leukemic cells is giving researchers crucial information into why standard therapies fail to cure some children with ALL.
    2006 St. Jude investigators discover inherited variations in certain genes that make children with ALL susceptible to the toxic side effects caused by chemotherapy medications.
    2006 St. Jude announces a 94 percent survival rate for ALL.
    2008 St. Jude researchers find evidence that a series of genetic mutations work together to initiate most cases of an aggressive and often-fatal form of ALL.
    2009 American Association for Cancer Research awards scientists at St. Jude, who represent the interdisciplinary team studying ALL, with its Team Science Award.
    2009 St. Jude study demonstrates how doctors can treat ALL with personalized chemotherapy instead of cranial radiation.