T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is biologically distinct from its B lymphoblastic (B-ALL) counterpart and shows different kinetic patterns of disease response. Although very similar regimens are used to treat T-ALL and B-ALL, distinctions in response to different elements of therapy have been observed. Similar to B-ALL, the key prognostic determinant in T-ALL is minimal residual disease (MRD) response. Unlike B-ALL, other factors including age, white blood cell count at diagnosis, and genetics of the ALL blasts are not independently prognostic when MRD response is included. Recent insights into T-ALL biology, using modern genomic techniques, have identified a number of recurrent lesions that can be grouped into several targetable pathways, including Notch, Jak/Stat, PI3K/Akt/mTOR, and MAPK. With contemporary chemotherapy, outcomes for de novo T-ALL have steadily improved and now approach those observed in B-ALL, with approximately 85% 5-year event-free survival. Unfortunately, salvage has remained poor, with less than 25% event-free and overall survival rates for relapsed disease. Thus, current efforts are focused on preventing relapse by augmenting therapy for high-risk patients, sparing toxicity in favorable subsets and developing new approaches for the treatment of recurrent disease.
© 2016 by The American Society of Hematology. All rights reserved.