The Impact of Socioeconomic Factors on the Outcome of Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) Treatment in a Low/Middle Income Country (LMIC)

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Abstract

Survival for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has improved significantly, but these benefits may not be available to many children from low and middle income countries, where reasons for treatment failure may be unique to their environment. We retrospectively reviewed data on pediatric (1 to 18 y or younger) patients with newly diagnosed ALL treated over 5 years at a children’s cancer hospital in Pakistan. Patients were treated with modified Berlin-Frankfurt-Muenster -based therapy without risk stratification. There were 255 children with a median age of 7 years (mean, 7.65 y) and a male preponderance (M:F=1.6:1). 20% had T-ALL, one-third had white blood cells >50×109/L and 13.7% central nervous system disease. A majority (56.5%) was malnourished. In total, 49 (19.2%) died before the end of induction and 21 died in complete remission. Most deaths were infection-related. A total of 50 patients relapsed and 19 abandoned therapy after complete remission. Five-year overall survival is 52.9% with abandonment censored and 45.8% with abandonment as an event. Overall survival was related to socioeconomic status but not to known risk factors. The outcome of ALL at our center is suboptimal and associated with factors not commonly seen in developed countries. Special attention to early diagnosis, infection control, and parental educational are needed to improve the survival.

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