Intrathecal Therapy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia in Adults

In some people with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), cancer cells can spread to the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. This can make treatment challenging, because chemotherapy drugs used to treat AML cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, a network of protective tissue that prevents harmful substances from entering the brain.

To treat leukemia in the central nervous system, or to prevent it from occurring, your NYU Langone doctors may administer chemotherapy drugs directly to the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. These targeted drugs destroy any cancer cells in the central nervous system and prevent new ones from forming.

Your doctor uses a lumbar puncture, in which he or she inserts a small needle into the lower back, to deliver the medication directly to the cerebrospinal fluid. A lumbar puncture is performed in the hospital or doctor’s office with a local anesthetic.