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Cancer Health Center

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Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Postinduction Treatment for Childhood ALL


Standard-risk ALL

In children with standard-risk ALL, there has been an attempt to limit exposure to drugs such as anthracyclines and alkylating agents that may be associated with an increased risk of late toxic effects.[5,6,7] For regimens utilizing a BFM backbone (such as COG), a single reinduction/delayed intensification phase, given with interim maintenance phases consisting of escalating doses of methotrexate (without leucovorin rescue) and vincristine, have been associated with favorable outcomes.[8] Favorable outcomes for standard-risk patients have also been reported by the POG, utilizing a limited number of courses of intermediate-dose or high-dose methotrexate as consolidation followed by maintenance therapy (without a reinduction phase),[6,9,10] and by the DFCI ALL Consortium utilizing multiple doses of L-asparaginase (20-30 weeks) as consolidation, without postinduction exposure to alkylating agents or anthracyclines.[11,12]

Evidence (intensification for standard-risk ALL):

  1. Clinical trials conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s demonstrated that the use of a delayed intensification phase improved outcome for children with standard-risk ALL treated with regimens using a BFM backbone.[13,14,15] The delayed intensification phase on such regimens, including those of the COG, consists of a 3-week reinduction (including anthracycline) and reconsolidation containing cyclophosphamide, cytarabine, and 6-thioguanine given approximately 3 months after remission is achieved.[13,16,17]
  2. A Children's Cancer Group study (CCG-1991/COG-1991) for standard-risk ALL utilized dexamethasone for induction and a second delayed intensification phase. This study also compared escalating intravenous (IV) methotrexate (without leucovorin rescue) in conjunction with vincristine versus a standard maintenance combination including oral methotrexate given during two interim maintenance phases.[8][Level of evidence: 1iiDi]
    • A second delayed intensification phase provided no benefit in patients who were rapid early responders (M1 or M2 marrow by day 14 of induction).
    • Escalating IV methotrexate during the interim maintenance phases, compared with oral methotrexate during these phases, produced a significant improvement in event-free survival (EFS), which was because of a decreased incidence of isolated extramedullary relapses, particularly those involving the CNS.
  3. In a randomized study conducted in the United Kingdom, children and young adults with ALL who lacked high-risk features (including adverse cytogenetics, and/or M3 marrow morphology at day 8 or day 15 of induction) were risk-stratified based on minimal residual disease (MRD) level at the end of induction (week 4) and at week 11 of therapy. Patients with undetectable MRD at week 4 (or with low MRD at week 4 and undetectable by week 11) were considered low-risk, and were eligible to be randomly assigned to therapy with either one or two delayed intensification phases.[18][Level of evidence: 1iiDi]
    • There was no significant difference in EFS between patients who received one and those who received two delayed intensification phases.
    • There was no significant difference in treatment-related deaths between the two arms; however, the second delayed intensification phase was associated with grade 3 or 4 toxic events in 17% of the 261 patients randomly assigned to that arm, and one patient experienced a treatment-related death during that phase.
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