Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in the adolescent and young adult (AYA) population is a difficult clinical problem. The AYA population, generally regarded as patients aged 15 to 39 years, currently draws a good deal of attention, particularly in the area of therapy selection. The current trend is to treat this group of patients with leukemia regimens based on pediatric protocols, and results comparing pediatric approaches versus adult approaches to treatment are maturing. Results are pending from a large US trial in which pediatric-based treatment is given to AYA patients with ALL. In tandem with these new clinical trials, researchers have reported disease features in the AYA group that may explain some of the differences in response to treatment observed in the AYA population compared with the pediatric population. In addition, unique social factors in this age group add to the complexity of ALL therapy in the AYA population. AYA patients are developing independence and separating from their parents. They tend to be noncompliant. Young adults suffer from a lack of health care insurance and poor access to clinical trials, and have specific concerns regarding toxicities, in particular fertility.
Adolescent and young adult patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia represent a distinct subgroup of patients who require specialized care. New treatment options, including therapy based on pediatric protocols, currently are being evaluated to improve outcomes.