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Haematologica. 1999 Nov;84(11):978-87.

Stage, percentage of basophils at diagnosis, hematologic response within six months, cytogenetic response in the first year: the main prognostic variables affecting outcome in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia in chronic phase treated with interferon-alpha. Results of the CML89 trial of the Spanish Collaborative Group on interferon-alpha2a and CML.

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  • 1Servicio de Hematología, Hospital de la Princesa, Diego de León 62, 28006 Madrid, Spain.



Interferon-a (IFN) is increasingly being used as the drug of choice in chronic myeloid leukemia patients. The main objectives of the study were to study the influence of the classic prognostic variables and response to IFN, and to assess the influence of this response on the course of the disease and survival.


Single arm, prospective, multicenter study, without a control group. Only Ph1-positive CML patients were included. The treatment scheme was biphasic: the patients first received standard chemotherapy and thereafter IFN-a2a was used as monotherapy, with a target dose of 9 MU/d/s.c.


Twenty-one centers in Spain enrolled 132 patients (72 men, 60 women). The median dose of IFN given was 5.8 MU/d, and the median treatment duration was 431 days (range: 18-2,597). Seventy-two percent of patients obtained a hematologic response in the first six months of IFN treatment. Genetic response was obtained in 47% of the patients, and the response was major or complete in 27% and 19%, respectively. The median time to obtain this response was 7, 9, and 18 months for minimal, partial and complete genetic response, respectively. Multivariant analysis showed that only a higher percentage of basophils at diagnosis was associated with a worse hematologic response at six months (p=0.001) (OR: 1.23) and with a worse cytogenetic response in the first year of IFN therapy (p=0.018) (OR: 1.4). Over an observation period of 8 years, 35.6% of the patients died, and 85 (64.4%) remained alive. With a median follow-up of 42 months (3.7-98), the 6-year projected probabilities of survival and transformation-free survival were 0.61+/-0.07 vs. 0.54+/-0.07, respectively. Patients with Kantarjian's stage 3 disease or in a high-risk Sokal group had lower probabilities of survival, but these systems did not adequately discriminate in our series. Obtaining a complete hematologic response in the first six months of IFN therapy was favorable in terms of overall survival (p=0.05; HR=0.33). Cox's analysis demonstrated that obtaining a cytogenetic response in the first year was independently associated with better overall survival (p=0.04; HR=0.19) and better transformation-free survival (p=0.0035; HR=0.11).


Nearly half of the patients obtained some degree of Philadelphia suppression, which was major in 27%, and complete in 19%. A higher percentage of basophils at diagnosis was the only variable associated with a lower probability of cytogenetic response. Obtaining a cytogenetic response during the first year of IFN treatment was a favorable and independent variable in terms of survival and transformation-free survival. Obtaining a major cytogenetic response during this period decreased the risk of transformation twenty times. Our results suggest that the effect of IFN on survival is independent of the classic prognostic variables.

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