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Treatment of Children with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)

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Chronic myeloid (myelogenous) leukemia (CML) is rare in children, but it does occur. Treatment in children is similar to what is used for adults.

Targeted drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), such as imatinib (Gleevec), dasatinib (Sprycel), nilotinib (Tasigna), and bosutinib (Bosulif), attack cells with the Philadelphia chromosome, which is the key gene abnormality in CML cells. These drugs are usually very good at controlling CML, often for long periods of time and with less severe side effects than chemotherapy drugs. However, it's not yet clear if these drugs can cure CML when used alone, and they must be taken every day.

Imatinib is usually the drug tried first. If it doesn’t work or if it becomes less effective over time, another drug may be tried.

If targeted drugs are no longer helpful, high-dose chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant offers the best chance for a cure. Doctors are now studying whether adding targeted drugs to stem cell transplant regimens can help increase cure rates.

For more information on CML and its treatment, see Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

National Cancer Institute. Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia/Other Myeloid Malignancies Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia/hp/child-aml-treatment-pdq on December 29, 2018.

Last Revised: September 28, 2023

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