Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a rare cancer of the bone marrow, the spongy material in bones where blood cells are made. ALL occurs when the genetic material of a stem cell has a mutation. These mutated cells, known as lymphoblasts, do not function properly. They multiply rapidly and crowd out the normal cells.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

If you have acute lymphoblastic leukemia, you are prone to infection and are at risk of bleeding or easy bruising. You may feel weak and sometimes have shortness of breath and dizziness.

Known risk factors for acute lymphoblastic leukemia include:

  • Radiation
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • Some genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome


To diagnose acute lymphoblastic leukemia, we use several types of tests:

  • Complete blood count: This blood test can show abnormal levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: This test can show abnormalities in chromosomes and molecular mutations. We examine a sample of bone marrow from the hip bone under a microscope.
  • Computed tomography scan: This imaging test can detect any enlarged lymph nodes
  • Lumbar puncture: Also called a spinal tap, this test can show if there are any leukemia cells in the spinal fluid

Treatments We Offer

The first step is to put your disease into remission with chemotherapy or a combination of treatments. You may need to be in the hospital for this initial treatment. The next step is to use chemotherapy and radiation to kill any cancer cells that remain in the body, with the goal of curing you. We will develop a treatment plan based on your age, other medical conditions you may have, and the specific type and characteristics of your ALL. Treatment may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and possibly stem cell transplantation.

Your care team will include doctors from different specialties, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, physical therapists, chaplains, and supportive oncology experts.

Clinical Trials and Research

Mount Sinai offers a wide range of clinical trials that test new therapies to see if they can improve the lives of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. These clinical trials are inspired by research done in our laboratories and include new drugs, new drug combinations, and immunotherapies.