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In recent years, new drugs that target certain parts of cancer cells have been developed. These targeted therapies work differently from standard chemotherapy (chemo) drugs and often have different and less severe side effects.

Sometimes acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) cells have a certain gene change that is similar to the gene change seen in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) cells. When they do have this gene change, some of the targeted drugs used to treat CML are useful in treating ALL. These drugs can help more ALL patients go into a remission and may help keep the leukemia from coming back.

A common side effect of targeted therapy drugs is swelling around the eyes or in the hands or feet. Other possible side effects include diarrhea, nausea, muscle pain, extreme tiredness (fatigue), and skin rashes, as well as lower red blood cell and platelet counts at the start of treatment.

Last Medical Review: 12/08/2014
Last Revised: 02/22/2016