Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the second most common acute leukemia in adults, with an incidence of over 6500 cases per year in the United States alone. The hallmark of ALL is chromosomal abnormalities and genetic alterations involved in differentiation and proliferation of lymphoid precursor cells. In adults, 75% of cases develop from precursors of the B-cell lineage, with the remainder of cases consisting of malignant T-cell precursors. Traditionally, risk stratification has been based on clinical factors such age, white blood cell count and response to chemotherapy; however, the identification of recurrent genetic alterations has helped refine individual prognosis and guide management. Despite advances in management, the backbone of therapy remains multi-agent chemotherapy with vincristine, corticosteroids and an anthracycline with allogeneic stem cell transplantation for eligible candidates. Elderly patients are often unable to tolerate such regimens and carry a particularly poor prognosis. Here, we review the major recent advances in the treatment of ALL.