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J Clin Oncol. 2005 Jun 10;23(17):3948-56. Epub 2005 May 9.

Phase II study of low-dose decitabine in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia resistant to imatinib mesylate.

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  • 1Department of Leukemia and Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



To determine the activity of decitabine, a DNA methylation inhibitor, in imatinib-refractory or intolerant chronic myelogenous leukemia.


Thirty-five patients were enrolled in this phase II study (12 in chronic phase, 17 in accelerated phase, and six in blastic phase). Decitabine was administered at 15 mg/m2 intravenously over 1 hour daily, 5 days a week for 2 weeks. DNA methylation was measured using a LINE1 bisulfite/pyrosequencing assay.


Complete hematologic responses were seen in 12 patients (34%) and partial hematologic responses in seven patients (20%), for an overall hematologic response rate of 54% (83% in chronic phase, 41% in accelerated phase, and 34% in blastic phase). Major cytogenetic responses were observed in six patients (17%), and minor cytogenetic responses were seen in 10 patients (29%) for an overall cytogenetic response rate of 46%. Median response duration was 3.5 months (range, 2 to 13+ months). Myelosuppression was the major adverse effect, with neutropenic fever in 28 (23%) of 124 courses of therapy. LINE1 methylation decreased from 71.3% +/- 1.4% (mean +/- standard error of the mean) to 60.7% +/- 1.4% after 1 week, 50.9% +/- 2.4% after 2 weeks, and returned to 66.5% +/- 2.7% at recovery of counts (median, 46 days). LINE1 methylation at the end of week 1 did not correlate with subsequent responses. However, at day 12, the absolute decrease in methylation was 14.5% +/- 3.0% versus 26.8% +/- 2.7% in responders versus nonresponders (P = .007).


Decitabine induces hypomethylation and has clinical activity in imatinib refractory chronic myelogenous leukemia. We hypothesize that the inverse correlation between hypomethylation 2 weeks after therapy and response is due to a cell death mechanism of response, whereby resistant cells can withstand more hypomethylation.

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