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J Clin Oncol. 2001 Feb 15;19(4):1040-6.

Improved response with higher corticosteroid dose in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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Department of Pediatric Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA.



We investigated whether there was a dose-response relationship for the use of corticosteroids in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).


Three hundred sixty-nine patients, ages 1 to 18 years with ALL, were randomly assigned to receive one of four different doses of corticosteroid (prednisolone 40 mg/m(2)/d or dexamethasone 6, 18, or 150 mg/m(2)/d) administered as a 3-day, single-drug window before initiation of standard, multidrug induction chemotherapy. Corticosteroid drug response was measured by reduction in bone marrow blast counts and absolute peripheral blast counts after 3 days. Glucocorticoid receptor (GCR) number and the effective concentration of dexamethasone resulting in a 50% reduction of leukemic cell viability in vitro (EC-50) were evaluated at days 0 and 3.


Increasing dexamethasone doses resulted in greater marrow blast response (P =.007), with a similar trend in peripheral-blood blast response. High-dose corticosteroid regimens (dexamethasone 18 or 150 mg/m(2)/d) elicited better responses than standard doses of dexamethasone or prednisone (bone marrow, P =.002; peripheral blasts, P =.05). Among patients treated with standard-dose corticosteroids, 38% with resistant (EC-50 > 10(-7)) peripheral blasts had a good response compared with 92% with sensitive (EC-50 < 10(-7)) peripheral blasts (P =.01). In contrast, there was no differential response according to EC-50 group after high-dose corticosteroids. Similarly, an association between response and GCR on peripheral-blood blasts was noted after standard-dose corticosteroid regimens but not after high-dose corticosteroid regimens.


Response of ALL to glucocorticoid therapy increased with dose. Higher-dose corticosteroid treatment abrogated the effect of relative drug insensitivity and of low GCR on peripheral blasts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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