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Blood. 2011 Sep 29;118(13):3504-11. doi: 10.1182/blood-2011-01-329441. Epub 2011 Jun 28.

High single-drug activity of nelarabine in relapsed T-lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma offers curative option with subsequent stem cell transplantation.

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  • 1Department of Medicine II, Hematology/Oncology, Goethe University Hospital, Frankfurt, Germany.


Nelarabine, a purine analog with T-cell specific action, has been approved for relapsed/refractory T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (ALL/LBL). This is a report of a single-arm phase 2 study conducted in adults (18-81 years of age) with relapsed/refractory T-ALL/LBL. After 1 or 2 cycles, 45 of 126 evaluable patients (36%) achieved complete remission (CR), 12 partial remission (10%), and 66 (52%) were refractory. One treatment-related death was observed, and 2 patients were withdrawn before evaluation. A total of 80% of the CR patients were transferred to stem cell transplantation (SCT). Overall survival was 24% at 1 year (11% at 6 years). After subsequent SCT in CR, survival was 31% and relapse-free survival 37% at 3 years. Transplantation-related mortality was 11%. Neurologic toxicities of grade I-IV/grade III-IV were observed in 13%/4% of the cycles and 16%/7% of the patients. This largest study so far with nelarabine in adults showed impressive single-drug activity in relapsed T-ALL/T-LBL. The drug was well tolerated, even in heavily pretreated patients. A high proportion of CR patients were transferred to SCT with low mortality but a high relapse rate. Exploration of nelarabine in earlier stages of relapse (eg, increasing minimal residual disease), in front-line therapy, and in combination is warranted.

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