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Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia– current concepts and future perspectives


Stefan Faderl, MD, Department of Leukemia, Box 428, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX 77030, USA; tel. (713) 745–4613; fax (713) 794–4297; e-mail


Philadelphia chromosome (Ph)-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is diagnosed rarely in children, but constitutes the most frequent cytogenetic abnormality in adults with ALL. In contrast to chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), patients with Ph-positive ALL usually demonstrate expression of a truncated version of the BCR-ABL protein called p190bcr–abl. Irrespective of age and breakpoint location, Ph-positive ALL carries a poor prognosis. Although remission rates are identical to those of Ph-negative ALL, relapse is almost universal and long-term survival remains rare. Given the poor outcome with current chemotherapy consolidation programs, stem cell transplantation is usually recommended for these patients in first remission or as soon as feasible. Even with transplantation the impact on outcome is limited and new therapeutic concepts are urgently needed. One of the most promising developments in recent years has been the introduction of the tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as STI571. An overview of current treatment modalities in Ph-positive ALL will be provided and the rationale for new therapies will be discussed.