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Blood. 1998 Oct 15;92(8):2730-41.

Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia: good initial steroid response allows early prediction of a favorable treatment outcome.

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Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Hannover, Germany.


Among 4,760 acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients enrolled from 1986 to 1995 in two subsequent trials of the BFM and AIEOP study group, 61 patients were found to have Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) ALL. These patients were analyzed for presenting features and treatment outcome to identify specific prognostic factors. Treatment stratification was based on initial cell mass and early response as determined by blast count in peripheral blood after a 7-day induction prephase with prednisone and one dose of intrathecal methotrexate on day 1. All patients were treated by similar intensive Berlin-Frankfurt-Münster (BFM) protocols. The median age of Ph+ patients was 7.5 years, the median white blood cell count (WBC) was 75 x 10(9)/L, 77% of patients had common ALL, and 29% coexpressed myeloid markers. After a median observation time of 4.2 years, 29 of 61 patients are alive (survival probability [pSUR] at 4 years, 0.49; standard error [SE], 0.06), and 24 of 61 are in first complete remission (CR1; probability of event-free survival [pEFS] at 4 years, 0.38; SE, 0.06). Twenty (35%) of 57 evaluable patients had >/=1,000 leukemic blasts per microliter of blood on day 8 of induction (defined as prednisone-poor-response [PPR]). These patients were older (10.0 v 6.88 years; P = .02) and had a higher WBC (144 v 29 x 10(9)/L; P = .0016) as compared with patients with prednisone good response (PGR; <1,000 blasts/microL at day 8). Only 2 of 20 patients (10%) with PPR remained in CR1 and alive: 6 patients with PPR did not survive after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) due to recurring disease (n = 3) and toxicity (n = 3), and 12 nontransplanted patients died due to progression (n = 5) or relapse (n = 7). In contrast, 26 (70%) of the 37 patients with PGR are alive. Of 18 patients transplanted by allo-BMT, 1 relapsed (now in CR2) and 4 died after BMT. Among the 19 patients with PGR treated by chemotherapy alone, 8 remained in CR1 and 11 relapsed, of which 4 are in CR2 or CR3. The prednisone response emerged as the only independent prognostic factor for survival in Cox regression analysis. Thus, two thirds of Ph+ childhood ALL cases can be identified early by PGR, which, when treated with intensive BFM chemotherapy, with or without BMT, have a significantly lower risk of treatment failure. With a median continuous complete remission (CCR) time of 4.1 years, pEFS for PGR is 0.55 (SE, 0.08) compared with 0.10 (SE, 0.07) in patients with PPR (P = .0001). PGR is also an indicator for treatment responsiveness and durable second remission after relapse, which in turn may provide a second chance for BMT.

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