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Br J Haematol. 2013 May;161(4):556-65. doi: 10.1111/bjh.12292. Epub 2013 Mar 11.

The inferior prognosis of adolescents with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is caused by a higher rate of treatment-related mortality and not an increased relapse rate--a population-based analysis of 25 years of the Austrian ALL-BFM (Berlin-Frankfurt-Münster) Study Group.

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Paediatric Haematology and Oncology, St Anna Children's Hospital, Department of Paediatrics, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Adolescents aged 15-18 years with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) have been historically reported to have a poorer prognosis than younger children. We retrospectively analysed the characteristics and outcome of 67 adolescents included in a population-based series of 1125 non-infant cases that were enrolled into four Austrian ALL-BFM (Berlin-Frankfurt-Münster) multicentre trials at paediatric institutions within a 25-year period. Five-year event-free survival (EFS) and overall survival (OS) were 66 ± 6% and 76 ± 5% respectively, and thus lower than in younger children (83 ± 1%, 91 ± 1%; P < 0·001). This was not due to an increased cumulative incidence of relapse (CIR) (5-year CIR: 19 ± 5% vs. 13 ± 1%; P = 0·284), but due to an increased incidence of treatment-related death [5-year cumulative incidence of death (CID): 15 ± 4% vs. 3 ± 0%; P < 0·001] as a first event. Furthermore, while 44/67 (66%) non-high-risk adolescents had favourable 5-year EFS and OS rates (76 ± 7%, 89 ± 5%), 18/67 (27%) high-risk adolescents had an inferior outcome (5-year EFS: 56 ± 12%, OS 61 ± 11%, P < 0·05). Among the latter patients the CID was significantly higher than in younger high-risk children (22 ± 10% vs. 6 ± 2%; P = 0·020). Given that adolescent age is an independent risk factor for death as a first event, this specific age group may need particular vigilance when receiving intense BFM-type chemotherapy, as relapse-free survival is similar to younger children.

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