Survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) are at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis or reduced bone density. Osteoporosis is generally found in women of menopausal age. Depending on the extent of bone loss, osteoporosis may be accompanied by pain, fracture or loss of height. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common form of childhood cancer and its survivability rate is reaching 80 percent because of the effective drug combinations.
It's not only a personal problem for the individual patient and his or her family, it has the potential to become a tremendous public health issue. Survivors of childhood ALL who suffer bone loss in their 20s or younger face potentially more severe and debilitating injuries as they age.
The researchers determined that the effective drug combination used to treat childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (prednisone, vincristine, daunorubicin, L-asparginase, etoposide and cytarabine), combined with higher doses of cranial irradiation lead to increased bone loss.
Patients receiving between lower doses of radiation demonstrated no less bone loss than patients not receiving cranial irradiation at all. This finding leads researchers to believe that irradiation of the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, the areas responsible for growth and maturity, are adversely affected.