High-Risk Leukemia Program at the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center


High-Risk Leukemia Program at the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center

| 6-7 minutes |

What is high-risk leukemia?

“High-risk” leukemia (loo-KEE-mee-uh) is cancer of the blood that is harder to treat and more likely to come back after treatment. Doctors say leukemia is high-risk if:

  • When your child is first diagnosed, the cancer cells show signs like abnormal chromosomes or certain proteins on the cell surface that are known to resist treatment or make the leukemia more likely to come back
  • It does not go into remission quickly with treatment (refractory)
  • It comes back after treatment (relapsed or recurrent)
  • A bone marrow transplant is likely to be needed as part of treatment

If your child’s leukemia is high-risk, they need a different approach. Our High-Risk Leukemia team will assess your child, review all the options and recommend the best treatment for them. Your family can consult us about the best care possible for your child either in-person or through a phone visit. After reviewing all the medical records you provide, we can see your child in the clinic or set up a call with your family and child’s doctors to discuss the best approach.

Our doctors are known worldwide for improving care and cure rates for childhood leukemia. We treat children and young adults with all types of leukemia, including relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).  

What’s special about the High-Risk Leukemia Program at Seattle Children’s?

From first visit to follow-up, our experts in high-risk leukemia diagnosis, care and research will work as a team to give your child seamless care. This close collaboration by experts in many specialties – including bone marrow transplant – sets us apart from other academic medical centers.

We leave no stone unturned to find the best possible treatment options specific to your child. Our team is experienced in delivering therapies designed to improve survival and quality of life for children with the toughest cases of leukemia. The program is part of Seattle Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

“It was scary hearing the cancer had returned especially since at first, we didn’t think we had any options. It was really encouraging to know there was another option out there and this wasn’t the end of the line.”

Melissa Goldsmith, mom of Fuller, who took part in a T-cell research study after his ALL relapsed.

High-Risk Leukemia Team

Todd Cooper, clinical trial chair of the Pediatric Acute Leukemia (PedAL) Initiative. Cooper chairs the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) committees on New Agents for AML and Relapsed AML. He also leads a national COG phase 3 study for children who are newly diagnosed with AML. COG is the largest consortium in the world focused on childhood cancers.

Marie Bleakley at Fred Hutch. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, her lab works to identify proteins on leukemia cells that can be used as targets in new immunotherapy clinical trials. Her laboratory developed a new type of T-cell therapy for people with acute leukemia that persists after donor bone marrow transplant. This new therapy is being assessed in a phase 1 clinical trial.  Bleakley also leads a national clinical trial of a new way to transplant bone marrow in youth with leukemia, pioneered by her team.

Meet the other doctors who care for children, teens and young adults with high-risk leukemia.

Soheil Meshinchi is an expert in leukemia biology, next-generation gene sequencing, targeted therapies for AML patients and bone marrow transplants for children with leukemia. He provides scientific leadership for many national and worldwide cooperative research efforts. These include the PedAL Initiative, COG AML Biology Committee and the TARGET AML Initiative.

Katherine Tarlock works in the Meshinchi lab to identify genetic changes in AML that can lead to new therapies. She leads 2 national COG clinical trials for targeted therapies in childhood AML. Learn more about AML lab research at Seattle Children’s.

Adam Lamble leads a national phase 1 clinical trial through COG that is testing a new drug for relapsed or refractory AML. He works on high-throughput drug screening with Tarlock.

Rebecca Gardner is clinical leader of immunotherapy studies at Seattle Children’s.

Michael Jensen is a vice president of Seattle Children’s Therapeutics, with a proven track record of moving innovations from the research bench to our patients.

Contact Us

The High-Risk Leukemia Program is part of our Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. If you would like an appointment, ask your child’s primary care provider to refer you.

If you have a referral or would like a second opinion, contact the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at 206-987-2106 or by email: HighRiskLeukemiaTeam@seattlechildrens.org. A second opinion is a chance to confirm the features of your child’s disease and get advice on the best treatment options.

Providers, see how to refer a patient.

Schedule an appointment

Telemedicine at Seattle Children’s

You may be offered a telehealth (virtual) appointment. Learn more here.

Paying for Care

Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s, such as insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.

“We gather all of a child’s providers under the same roof at the same time, to look at patients from every angle and provide the best possible care every step of the way. Coordinating care in this way also makes life easier for families.” – Dr. Todd Cooper, co-director, High-Risk Leukemia Program. See All in Against Leukemia.

Published by ForACureNW

For A Cure NW is a charitable organization whose purpose is to raise funds for Seattle Children's Hospital's High-Risk Leukemia Program, its patients and their families.

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