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Leukemia Treatment Program

Luke was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia at age two, and received 84 doses of chemotherapy, more than 30 blood transfusions, and spent 114 days at CHOC.

The Leukemia Treatment Program at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s is made up of two teams of highly trained leukemia specialists dedicated to providing compassionate, family-centered care. One team is dedicated to treating patients with standard to high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), while the other team treats very-high-risk ALL and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This team also works with patients receiving blood and marrow transplants through the Cancer Institute’s Blood and Marrow Transplant Program.

What We Treat

Our leukemia teams treat all forms of leukemia:

  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), both B and T cell
  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
  • Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL)
  • Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
  • Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML)
  • Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)
  • Transient Myeloproliferative Disorders (TMD)

cancer-teen-patients

Clinical Trials and Research

Children’s cancers are very different than adult cancers and must be treated with specific pediatric cancer protocols. Our experience in exclusively treating children, teens and young adults makes us the experts in the evaluation and treatment of all forms of common childhood and adolescent cancers. We are dedicated to administering the very latest pediatric cancer treatment options. A majority of our protocols come from the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), a national organization funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Our relationship with the COG makes us the only medical center in the southwestern United States offering COG Phase I clinical trials.

Learn more about our ongoing research and the clinical trials available at the Cancer Institute.

The Leukemia Treatment Program at CHOC Children’s is a multidisciplinary team of nationally recognized pediatric blood cancer experts.

Ivan Kirov
Ivan Kirov, MD

Steven M Neudorf, MD
Steven M Neudorf, MD

The team that treats patients with standard to high risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is led by Ivan Kirov, M.D., who is a board-certified pediatric hematologist/oncologist. He earned his medical degree from the Medical Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1979. He did his residency and fellowship in Bulgaria where he went on to become an accomplished pediatric hematologist/oncologist for more than 12 years. In 1992, Dr. Kirov moved to the United States and became a visiting fellow in the bone marrow transplant program at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Oncology Center. He then went on to complete a residency in pediatrics at Westchester County Medical Center and postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology at CHOC Children’s.

Steven Neudorf, M.D., leads the team caring for our patients with very high risk leukemia ALL and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This team also works with patients receiving blood and marrow transplants through the Cancer Institute’s Blood and Marrow Transplant Program. Dr. Neudorf specializes in stem-cell transplantation and is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric hematology/oncology. He served his fellowship, residency and internship through the University of Minnesota. He received his medical training at University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School, in Illinois. Dr. Neudorf is a member of the Pediatric Subspecialty Faculty Board of Directors.

Learn more about our exceptional pediatric oncology-trained nurses, social workers, psychologists, nurse practitioners, child life specialists and case coordinators at the Cancer Institute.

Frequently Asked Questions About Leukemia

When a member of the family is diagnosed with leukemia, the entire family is effected and bound to have many questions. The experts in our Leukemia Treatment Program have put together answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about leukemia that new patients and families typically ask. The answers to these questions should not replace the instructions or advice provided by the patients healthcare team.

Leukemia is a blood cancer in which there are too many white blood cells in the blood and bone marrow. There are several types of leukemia but they all have uncontrolled growth of white blood cells. There are four major subtypes of leukemia:
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
The bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue found inside the bones. The bone marrow is responsible for the development and storage of most of the body's blood cells.
Leukemia is not contagious. Most patients with leukemia have no family history of it. There is no evidence that leukemia can be passed on from person to person. Occasionally there might be a genetic predisposition to developing leukemia, but the susceptibility is unknown.
It is most important that everyone know that it is not contagious. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. Let friends and family know how important it is to make sure they are not sick or haven’t been around others who are sick before seeing the patient.
Therapy for leukemia consists of chemotherapy. Other treatments may include immunotherapy or certain biologic molecules which are still investigational.
Treatment usually last two-and-a-half years for girls and three years for boys.
The combination of chemotherapy and central nervous system radiation involved in the treatment can impact growth, development and neurologic function later in life, although these effects vary from patient to patient. Successfully treated children have gone on to have healthy children of their own as adults. After treatment, long-term follow-up may include:
  • Laboratory tests and radiologic scans
  • Electrocardiograms
  • Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart)
  • Hearing tests
  • Neuropsychological evaluations
Once discharged from the initial hospital visit, patients require blood tests and doctor visits weekly. Once on maintenance chemotherapy the visits become much less frequent (about once per month).

Leukemia Patient and Family Resources

Get answers to frequently asked questions about leukemia.


Get information on the blood and/or marrow transplant process.


Diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, Emily still receives treatment at CHOC’s outpatient infusion clinic. Read her story.


Associate Spotlight: Carla Daum, Blood and Marrow Transplant Coordinator

Carla Daum

Carla Daum has a passion for working with oncology patients.She began her career at CHOC Children’s in 1989 while still in her third semester of nursing school. She started as a unit secretary on the weekends and eventually held positions as a home health nurse and bedside nurse and charge nurse in the Oncology Intensive Care Unit.

In 2002, Carla was offered her current position as the Cancer Institute’s blood and marrow transplant coordinator. Carla works with patients and their families to coordinate and walk them through the ups, downs and decisions of blood and marrow transplant.

“I love being afforded the opportunity to care, coordinate and advocate for the patients and families I am priviledged to serve,” Carla said. “Through their courage, strength, and tenacity, I am blessed with the opportunity to grow in character, as well as spirit, striving to become a better daughter, sister, nurse, wife, mother and friend.”

Learn more about the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s.

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UC Irvine

CHOC Children's is affiliated with the UC Irvine School of Medicine