Clinical trials for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

In the UK, most treatment for ALL is given as part of large national and international clinical trials. The main treatment used in the trial is chemotherapy. Each trial uses a combination of different chemotherapy drugs. Some people may also have targeted therapies or a stem cell transplant.

Clinical trials for ALL use drugs and treatments that are already known to work well, but give them in different combinations. They may also test newer types of drugs alongside current treatments. This helps doctors to improve treatments further and find out more about the best way to give them.

Depending on your age and general fitness you will usually be invited to enter a clinical trial. Many of the trial names begin with the name ‘UKALL’ which stands for United Kingdom Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Your doctor will tell you about the UKALL trial which you can enter if you choose. Below are two of the current trials available in the UK. There may be other trials available. Your doctor can give you written information about trials and will discuss them with you.

We also have general information about research and trials.

UKALL2011

This trial is for children and young people aged 1 to 24 years. We have written this information for those aged 16 years and over. The Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) has separate information on children under the age of 16 in their booklet Children and Young People with Cancer: A Parent’s Guide.

Treatment takes place in five phases. In each phase you will be given a combination of chemotherapy drugs. For some phases you will mainly be treated as an inpatient and for others you will have most treatments as an outpatient.

PhaseAimHow long?Planned time in hospital
InductionTo get you into remission5 weeks1 to 4 weeks
ConsolidationTo get rid of any remaining leukaemia cells5 to 9 weeksMainly outpatient
Interim maintenanceTo give you a break from intensive treatment8 weeksOutpatient
Delayed intensificationTo get rid of any leukaemia cells remaining7 to 8 weeksOutpatient
MaintenanceTo keep leukaemia away long-term2 to 3 yearsOutpatient

UKALL 14

This trial is for people aged 25 to 65. It is also for people aged 19 to 25 who have the Philadelphia chromosome.

It is testing:

  • using a newer form of a commonly used chemotherapy drug called asparaginase in some people
  • adding a targeted therapy called rituximab to standard chemotherapy for people with B-cell ALL
  • adding the chemotherapy drug nelarabine to standard chemotherapy for people with T-cell ALL
  • who benefits most from having a stem cell transplant.

You will also be given standard chemotherapy drugs as part of this trial. We have more information about the chemotherapy drugs used to treat ALL.

Back to Chemotherapy explained