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Blood. 1998 Jul 15;92(2):411-5.

Early intensification of intrathecal chemotherapy virtually eliminates central nervous system relapse in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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  • 1Department of Hematology-Oncology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105-0318, USA.


Central nervous system (CNS) relapse has been an obstacle to uniformly successful treatment of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) for many years. We therefore intensified intrathecal chemotherapy (simultaneously administered methotrexate, hydrocortisone, and cytarabine) for 165 consecutive children with newly diagnosed ALL enrolled in Total Therapy Study XIIIA from December 1991 to August 1994. The 64 patients (39%) who had 1 or more blast cells in cytocentrifuged preparations of cerebrospinal fluid at diagnosis, with or without associated higher-risk features, received additional doses of intrathecal chemotherapy during remission induction and the first year of continuation treatment. Patients with higher-risk leukemia, regardless of cerebrospinal fluid findings, also received additional doses of intrathecal chemotherapy during the first year of continuation treatment. Cranial irradiation was reserved for patients with higher-risk leukemia (22% of the total). The 5-year cumulative risk of an isolated CNS relapse among all 165 patients was 1.2% (95% confidence interval, 0% to 2.9%), whereas that of any CNS relapse was 3.2% (0. 4% to 6.0%). The probability of surviving for 5 years without an adverse event of any type was 80.2% +/- 9.2% (SE). Our results suggest that early intensification of intrathecal chemotherapy will reduce the risk of CNS relapse to a very low level in children with ALL, securing a higher event-free survival rate overall.

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