Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Postinduction Treatment for Childhood ALL
When steroid pulses are used during the maintenance phase, dexamethasone is preferred over prednisone for younger patients. [14,48]
Evidence (dexamethasone vs. prednisone):
- In a CCG study, dexamethasone was compared with prednisone for children aged 1 to younger than 10 years with lower-risk ALL.[14,48]
- Patients randomly assigned to receive dexamethasone had significantly fewer CNS relapses and a significantly better EFS rate.
- In a Medical Research Council trial, dexamethasone was compared with prednisolone during induction and maintenance therapies in both standard-risk and high-risk patients.
- The EFS and incidence of both CNS and non-CNS relapses improved with the use of dexamethasone.
The benefit of using dexamethasone in children aged 10 to 18 years requires further investigation because of the increased risk of steroid-induced osteonecrosis in this age group.[25,50]
Duration of maintenance therapy
Maintenance chemotherapy generally continues until 2 to 3 years of continuous complete remission. On some studies, boys are treated longer than girls; on others, there is no difference in the duration of treatment based on gender.[7,17] It is not clear whether longer duration of maintenance therapy reduces relapse in boys, especially in the context of current therapies.[Level of evidence: 2Di] Extending the duration of maintenance therapy beyond 3 years does not improve outcome.
Treatment options under clinical evaluation
Risk-based treatment assignment is a key therapeutic strategy utilized for children with ALL, and protocols are designed for specific patient populations that have varying degrees of risk for treatment failure. The Risk-based Treatment Assignment section of this summary describes the clinical and laboratory features used for the initial stratification of children with ALL into risk-based treatment groups.
Ongoing clinical trials include the following:
COG studies for B-precursor ALL
- COG-AALL0932 (Risk-Adapted Chemotherapy in Younger Patients With Newly Diagnosed Standard-Risk ALL):
This trial subdivides standard-risk patients into two groups: low risk and average risk. Low risk is defined as the presence of all of the following: NCI-standard risk age/WBC, favorable genetics (e.g., double trisomies or ETV6-RUNX1), CNS1 at presentation, and low MRD (<0.01% by flow cytometry) at day 8 (peripheral blood) and day 29 (marrow). Average risk includes other NCI standard-risk patients excluding those with high day 29 MRD morphologic induction failure or other unfavorable presenting features (e.g., CNS3, iAMP21, low hypodiploidy, MLL translocations, and BCR-ABL).
All patients will receive a three-drug induction (dexamethasone, vincristine, and IV PEG-L-asparaginase) with intrathecal chemotherapy. For postinduction therapy, low-risk patients will be randomly assigned to receive either a regimen based on POG-9404, including six courses of intermediate-dose methotrexate (1 g/m2) but without any alkylating agents or anthracyclines, or a modified BFM backbone including two interim maintenance phases with IV methotrexate and one delayed intensification phase. The objective is not to prove superiority of either regimen, but rather to determine if excellent outcomes (at least 95% 5-year DFS) can be achieved.
All average-risk patients will receive a modified BFM-backbone as postinduction treatment. For these patients, the study is comparing, in a randomized fashion, two doses of weekly oral methotrexate during the maintenance phase (20 mg/m2 and 40 mg/m2) to determine whether the higher dose favorably impacts DFS. Average-risk patients are also eligible to participate in a randomized comparison of two schedules of vincristine/dexamethasone pulses during maintenance (delivered every 4 weeks or every 12 weeks). The objective of this randomization is to determine whether vincristine/dexamethasone pulses can be delivered less frequently without adversely impacting outcome.