Child Cancer Leukaemia Treatment – Research Sheds New Light

A Telethon Kids Institute Research study examining drug resistance in leukaemia patients has shed new light on why some treatments may be more effective than others.

The study, which looked at cells from children suffering from T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL), examined how different genes were associated with resistance to different drugs in an effort to improve treatment success.

Research from Child Cancer Funding

Funded by the Children’s Leukaemia and Cancer Research Foundation (CLCRF), and published recently in Cancer Research, the study tested the ten most common drugs used in T-ALL treatment against cells from 15 young leukaemia patients.

The results were used to identify genetic fingerprints that indicate which cancer cells may be more drug resistant than others. The researchers then examined these patterns in patients from larger international studies and were able to confirm the accuracy of the findings.

The Importance of the Findings

Lead Author Dr Alex Beesley says the findings are important in helping identify pathways to drug resistance in young patients who relapse.

“Our work has shown that the reasons why patients relapse is individual and linked to a child’s genetic makeup. It determines how our cells react to different kinds of drugs,” said Dr Beesley. “This information advances our understanding of drug resistance in T-ALL and provides new ideas for more targeted treatment.”

The Telethon Kids Institute research also uncovered further evidence to suggest that one of the oldest and original drugs used to treat childhood leukaemia, 6-mercaptopurine (6MP) may be more effective if introduced earlier in T-ALL therapy.

“Our findings suggest earlier, use of this drug in treatment could potentially improve patient outcome in T-ALL and we recommend further clinical trials to test our theory.” said Dr Beesley.


Drug-gene modeling in pediatric T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia highlights importance of 6-mercaptopurine for outcome.

Beesley AH, Firth MJ, Anderson D, Samuels AL, Ford J, Kees UR.

Cancer Res. 2013 May 1;73(9):2749-59