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1.  Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation for Acute Leukemia in Relapse or Primary Induction Failure 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2010;28(23):3730-3738.
Patients with acute leukemia refractory to induction or reinduction chemotherapy have poor prognoses if they do not undergo hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT). However, HSCT when a patient is not in complete remission (CR) is of uncertain benefit. We hypothesized that pretransplantation variables may define subgroups that have a better prognosis.
Patients and Methods
Overall, 2,255 patients who underwent transplantation for acute leukemia in relapse or with primary induction failure after myeloablative conditioning regimen between 1995 and 2004 were reported to the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research. The median follow-up of survivors was 61 months. We performed multivariate analysis of pretransplantation variables and developed a predictive scoring system for survival.
The 3-year overall survival (OS) rates were 19% for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and 16% for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). For AML, five adverse pretransplantation variables significantly influenced survival: first CR duration less than 6 months, circulating blasts, donor other than HLA-identical sibling, Karnofsky or Lansky score less than 90, and poor-risk cytogenetics. For ALL, survival was worse with the following: first refractory or second or greater relapse, ≥ 25% marrow blasts, cytomegalovirus-seropositive donor, and age of 10 years or older. Patients with AML who had a predictive score of 0 had 42% OS at 3 years, whereas OS was 6% for a score ≥ 3. Patients with ALL who had a score of 0 or 1 had 46% 3-year OS but only 10% OS rate for a score ≥ 3.
Pretransplantation variables delineate subgroups with different outcomes. HSCT during relapse can achieve long-term survival in selected patients with acute leukemia.
PMCID: PMC2917308  PMID: 20625136
2.  In Vivo Response to Methotrexate Forecasts Outcome of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Has a Distinct Gene Expression Profile 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(4):e83.
Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer in children, and can now be cured in approximately 80% of patients. Nevertheless, drug resistance is the major cause of treatment failure in children with ALL. The drug methotrexate (MTX), which is widely used to treat many human cancers, is used in essentially all treatment protocols worldwide for newly diagnosed ALL. Although MTX has been extensively studied for many years, relatively little is known about mechanisms of de novo resistance in primary cancer cells, including leukemia cells. This lack of knowledge is due in part to the fact that existing in vitro methods are not sufficiently reliable to permit assessment of MTX resistance in primary ALL cells. Therefore, we measured the in vivo antileukemic effects of MTX and identified genes whose expression differed significantly in patients with a good versus poor response to MTX.
Methods and Findings
We utilized measures of decreased circulating leukemia cells of 293 newly diagnosed children after initial “up-front” in vivo MTX treatment (1 g/m2) to elucidate interpatient differences in the antileukemic effects of MTX. To identify genomic determinants of these effects, we performed a genome-wide assessment of gene expression in primary ALL cells from 161 of these newly diagnosed children (1–18 y). We identified 48 genes and two cDNA clones whose expression was significantly related to the reduction of circulating leukemia cells after initial in vivo treatment with MTX. This finding was validated in an independent cohort of children with ALL. Furthermore, this measure of initial MTX in vivo response and the associated gene expression pattern were predictive of long-term disease-free survival (p < 0.001, p = 0.02).
Together, these data provide new insights into the genomic basis of MTX resistance and interpatient differences in MTX response, pointing to new strategies to overcome MTX resistance in childhood ALL.
Trial registrations: Total XV, Therapy for Newly Diagnosed Patients With Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, (NCT00137111); Total XIIIBH, Phase III Randomized Study of Antimetabolite-Based Induction plus High-Dose MTX Consolidation for Newly Diagnosed Pediatric Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia at Intermediate or High Risk of Treatment Failure (NCI-T93-0101D); Total XIIIBL, Phase III Randomized Study of Antimetabolite-Based Induction plus High-Dose MTX Consolidation for Newly Diagnosed Pediatric Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia at Lower Risk of Treatment Failure (NCI-T93-0103D).
William Evans and colleagues investigate the genomic determinants of methotrexate resistance and interpatient differences in methotrexate response in patients newly diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Editors' Summary
Every year about 10,000 children develop cancer in the US. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a rapidly progressing blood cancer, accounts for a quarter of these childhood cancers. Normally, cells in the bone marrow (the spongy material inside bones) develop into lymphocytes (white blood cells that fight infections), red blood cells (which carry oxygen round the body), platelets (which prevent excessive bleeding), and granulocytes (another type of white blood cell). However, in ALL, genetic changes in immature lymphocytes (lymphoblasts) mean that these cells divide uncontrollably and fail to mature. Eventually, the bone marrow fills up with these abnormal cells and can no longer make healthy blood cells. As a result, children with ALL cannot fight infections. They also bruise and bleed easily and, because they do not have enough red blood cells, they often complain of tiredness and weakness. With modern chemotherapy protocols (combinations of drugs that kill the fast-dividing cancer cells but leave the normal, nondividing cells in the body largely unscathed), more than 80% of children with ALL live for at least 5 years.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although this survival rate is good, some patients still die because their cancer cells are resistant to one or more chemotherapy drugs. For some drugs, the genetic characteristics of the ALL cells that make them resistant are known. Unfortunately, little is known about why some ALL cells are resistant to methotrexate, a component of most treatment protocols for newly diagnosed ALL. Methotrexate kills dividing cells by interfering with DNA synthesis and repair. Cancer cells can be resistant to methotrexate for many reasons—they may have acquired genetic changes that stop the drug from entering them, for example. These resistance mechanisms need to be understood better before new strategies can be developed for the treatment of methotrexate-resistant ALL. In this study, the researchers have determined the response of newly diagnosed patients to methotrexate and have investigated the gene expression patterns in ALL cells that correlate with good and bad responses to methotrexate.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured the reduction in circulating leukemia cells that followed the first treatment with methotrexate of nearly 300 patients with newly diagnosed ALL. They also used “microarray” analysis to investigate the gene expression patterns in lymphoblast samples taken from the bone marrow of 161 patients before treatment. They found that the expression of 50 genes was significantly related to the reduction in circulating leukemia cells after methotrexate treatment (a result confirmed in an independent group of patients). Of these genes, the expression of 29 was higher in patients who responded poorly to methotrexate than in patients who responded well. A “global analysis test,” which examined the gene expression profile of different cellular pathways in relation to the methotrexate response, found a significant association between the nucleotide biosynthesis pathway (which is needed for DNA synthesis and cellular proliferation) and the methotrexate response. Finally, patients with the best methotrexate response and the 50-gene expression profile indicative of a good response were more likely to be alive after 5 years than patients with the worst methotrexate response and the poor-response gene expression profile.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide important new insights into the genetic basis of methotrexate resistance in newly diagnosed childhood ALL and begin to explain why some patients fail to respond to this drug. They also show that the reduction in circulating leukemic cells shortly after the first methotrexate dose and a specific gene expression profile both predict the long-term survival of patients. These findings also suggest new ways to modulate sensitivity to methotrexate. Down-regulation of the expression of the genes that are expressed more highly in poor responders than in good responders might improve patient responses to methotrexate. Alternatively, it might be possible to find ways to increase the expression of the genes that are underexpressed in methotrexate poor responders and so improve the outlook for at least some of the children with ALL who fail to respond to current chemotherapy protocols.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• The US National Cancer Institute provides a fact sheet for patients and caregivers about ALL in children and information about its treatment(in English and Spanish)
• The UK charity Cancerbackup provides information for patients and caregivers on ALL in children and on methotrexate
• The US Leukemia and Lymphoma Society also provides information for patients and caregivers about ALL
• The Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group (a UK charity) provides information for children with cancer and their families
• MedlinePlus provides additional information about methotrexate (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2292747  PMID: 18416598
3.  Young Adults With Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Have an Excellent Outcome With Chemotherapy Alone and Benefit From Intensive Postinduction Treatment: A Report From the Children's Oncology Group 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2009;27(31):5189-5194.
Patients 16 to 21 years of age with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) have an inferior outcome compared with younger children, leading some medical oncologists to advocate allogeneic stem-cell transplantation in first remission for these patients. We examined outcome for young adults with ALL enrolled onto the Children's Cancer Group (CCG) 1961 study between 1996 and 2002.
Patients and Methods
CCG 1961 entered patients with ALL 1 to 21 years of age with initial WBC count ≥ 50,000/μL and/or age ≥ 10 years. Randomly assigned therapies evaluated the impact of postinduction treatment intensification on outcome. We examined outcome and prognostic factors for 262 young adults with ALL.
Five-year event-free and overall survival rates for young adult patients are 71.5% (SE, 3.6%) and 77.5% (SE, 3.3%), respectively. Rapid responder patients (< 25% bone marrow blasts on day 7) randomly assigned to augmented therapy had 5-year event-free survival of 81.8% (SE, 7%), as compared with 66.8% (SE, 6.7%) for patients receiving standard therapy (P = .07). One versus two interim maintenance and delayed intensification courses had no significant impact on event-free survival. WBC count more than 50,000/μL was an adverse prognostic factor.
Young adult patients with ALL showing a rapid response to induction chemotherapy benefit from early intensive postinduction therapy but do not benefit from a second interim maintenance and delayed intensification phase. Given the excellent outcome with this chemotherapy, there seems to be no role for the routine use of allogeneic stem-cell transplantation in first remission for young adults with ALL.
PMCID: PMC3053149  PMID: 19805689
4.  Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation for acute leukemia in first relapse or second remission 
The Korean Journal of Hematology  2010;45(2):95-101.
The role of pre-transplant salvage chemotherapy has been controversial in relapsed acute leukemia.
We investigated post-transplant outcomes in 65 patients with acute leukemia treated with allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) during first relapse or second remission.
The 5-year cumulative incidence of relapse (CIR) was 52.3%. Multivariate analysis for CIR revealed that patients with unfavorable cytogenetics and those not in remission at the time of HCT had a significantly high CIR (P = 0.031 and P = 0.031, respectively). Allogeneic HCT was performed in 14 patients after first relapse without salvage chemotherapy ("untreated relapse" group), 15 patients failed chemotherapy for reinduction of remission before HCT ("refractory relapse" group), and 36 patients attained second remission with salvage chemotherapy before HCT ("second remission" group). The 5-year CIR for patients in the untreated relapse group (57.1%) was higher than that for those in the second remission group (42.3%), but it was lower than that for patients in the refractory relapse group (66.7%). Among patients who underwent allogeneic HCT in relapse, those with bone marrow (BM) blasts ≤30% had a lower 5-year CIR than those in florid relapse (BM blasts >30%) (57.7% vs. 70.6%).
Our results do not support the role of salvage chemotherapy aimed at re-induction of remission before allogeneic HCT in patients with acute leukemia after first relapse. Patients with early relapse do not appear to benefit from salvage chemotherapy before HCT.
PMCID: PMC2983023  PMID: 21120187
Allogeneic HCT; Acute leukemia; First relapse; Second remission
5.  High-Risk Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia 
Clinical lymphoma & myeloma  2009;9(Suppl 3):S222.
Although most children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) are cured, certain subsets have a high risk of relapse. Relapse risk can be predicted by early response to therapy, clinical and pharmacogenetic features of the host, and genetic characteristics of leukemic cells. Though early treatment response can be assessed by the peripheral blast cell count after 1 week of single-agent glucocorticoid treatment or percent of bone marrow blasts by morphology after 1 or 2 weeks of multiagent induction treatment, determination of minimal residual disease by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or flow cytometry after 2 to 6 weeks of induction is the most precise and useful measure. Augmented therapy has improved outcome for the poor responders to initial treatment. Infants with mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL)–rearranged ALL comprise a very poor-risk group wherein further intensification of chemotherapy causes significant toxicity. Hybrid protocols incorporating drugs effective for acute myeloid leukemia could improve survival, a strategy being tested in international trials. Studies on the biology of MLL-induced leukemogenesis have prompted the development of novel targeted agents, currently under evaluation in clinical trials. Short-term outcomes of patients with Philadelphia chromosome (Ph)–positive ALL have improved significantly by adding tyrosine kinase inhibitors to standard chemotherapy regimens. New agents and methods to overcome resistance are under investigation, and allogeneic stem cell transplantation is recommended for certain subsets of patients, for example those with Ph+ and T-cell ALL with poor early response. Genome-wide interrogation of leukemic cell genetic abnormalities and germline genetic variations promise to identify new molecular targets for therapy.
PMCID: PMC2814411  PMID: 19778845
Childhood cancer; Dasatinib; Imatinib; Infant ALL; Pediatric disease; Philadelphia chromosome; positive disease; Slow early response
6.  Minimal Residual Disease-Directed Therapy for Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia: Results of the AML02 Multicenter Trial 
The lancet oncology  2010;11(6):543-552.
We sought to improve outcome of childhood acute myeloid leukemia (AML) by applying risk-directed therapy based on the genetic abnormalities of the leukemic cells and measurements of minimal residual disease (MRD) as determined by flow cytometry during treatment.
From October 13, 2002 to June 19, 2008, 232 patients with de novo AML (n=206), therapy- or myelodysplasia-related AML (n=12), or mixed-lineage leukemia (n=14) were enrolled at eight centers. Block, nonblinded randomization, stratified by cytogenetic or morphologic subtype, assigned patients to high-dose (18 g/m2, n=113) or low-dose (2 g/m2, n=117) cytarabine (A), given together with daunorubicin (D) and etoposide (E) (Induction I); achievement of MRD negative status was the primary endpoint. Induction II consisted of ADE with or without gemtuzumab ozogamicin (GO); consolidation therapy included three additional courses of chemotherapy or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Levels of MRD were used to allocate GO and determine the timing of Induction II; both MRD and genetic abnormalities at diagnosis were used to determine final risk classification. Low-risk patients (n=68) received 5 courses of chemotherapy, whereas high-risk patients (n=79), as well as standard-risk patients (n=69) with matched sibling donors, were eligible for HSCT (performed in 48 high and 8 standard-risk patients). All randomized patients (n=230) were analyzed for the primary endpoint. The other analyses were limited to the 216 patients with AML, excluding mixed-lineage leukemia. This trial, closed to accrual, is registered with, number NCT00136084.
The complete remission rates were 80% (173 of the 216) after Induction I and 94% (203 of 216) after Induction II. Induction failures included two toxic deaths and 10 cases of resistant leukemia. The introduction of high-dose cytarabine did not significantly lower the rate of MRD positivity after Induction I therapy (34% vs. 42%, P=0.17). The cumulative incidences of grade 3 or greater infection were 79.3% ± 4.0% and 75.5% ± 4.2% for patients treated on the high-dose or low-dose arms. The 3-year estimates (± SE) of event-free and overall survival were 63.0% ± 4.1% and 71.1% ± 3.8%, respectively. Achievement of MRD < 0.1% after Induction II identified a large group of patients (80%) with a cumulative incidence of relapse of only 17% ± 3%. Post-Induction I MRD ≥ 1% was the only independent adverse prognostic factor that was statistically significant (P < 0.05) for both event-free (HR, 2.41; CI 1.36–4.26; P=0.003) and overall survival (HR, 2.11; CI 1.09–4.11; P=0.028).
Our findings suggest that the use of targeted chemotherapy and HSCT, in the context of a comprehensive risk-stratification strategy based on genetic features and MRD findings, can improve the outcome of childhood AML.
PMCID: PMC3171799  PMID: 20451454
7.  Extracorporeal Photophoresis 
Executive Summary
To assess the effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness of extracorporeal photophoresis (ECP) for the treatment of refractory erythrodermic cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) and refractory chronic graft versus host disease (cGvHD).
Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma
Cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a general name for a group of skin affecting disorders caused by malignant white blood cells (T lymphocytes). Cutaneous T cell lymphoma is relatively uncommon and represents slightly more than 2% of all lymphomas in the United States. The most frequently diagnosed form of CTCL is mycosis fungoides (MF) and its leukemic variant Sezary syndrome (SS). The relative frequency and disease-specific 5-year survival of 1,905 primary cutaneous lymphomas classified according to the World Health Organization-European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (WHO-EORTC) classification (Appendix 1). Mycosis fungoides had a frequency of 44% and a disease specific 5-year survival of 88%. Sezary syndrome had a frequency of 3% and a disease specific 5-year survival of 24%.
Cutaneous T cell lymphoma has an annual incidence of approximately 0.4 per 100,000 and it mainly occurs in the 5th to 6th decade of life, with a male/female ratio of 2:1. Mycosis fungoides is an indolent lymphoma with patients often having several years of eczematous or dermatitic skin lesions before the diagnosis is finally established. Mycosis fungoides commonly presents as chronic eczematous patches or plaques and can remain stable for many years. Early in the disease biopsies are often difficult to interpret and the diagnosis may only become apparent by observing the patient over time.
The clinical course of MF is unpredictable. Most patients will live normal lives and experience skin symptoms without serious complications. Approximately 10% of MF patients will experience progressive disease involving lymph nodes, peripheral blood, bone marrow and visceral organs. A particular syndrome in these patients involves erythroderma (intense and usually widespread reddening of the skin from dilation of blood vessels, often preceding or associated with exfoliation), and circulating tumour cells. This is known as SS. It has been estimated that approximately 5-10% of CTCL patients have SS. Patients with SS have a median survival of approximately 30 months.
Chronic Graft Versus Host Disease
Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) is a treatment used for a variety of malignant and nonmalignant disease of the bone marrow and immune system. The procedure is often associated with serious immunological complications, particularly graft versus host disease (GvHD). A chronic form of GvHD (cGvHD) afflicts many allogeneic HCT recipients, which results in dysfunction of numerous organ systems or even a profound state of immunodeficiency. Chronic GVHD is the most frequent cause of poor long-term outcome and quality of life after allogeneic HCT. The syndrome typically develops several months after transplantation, when the patient may no longer be under the direct care of the transplant team.
Approximately 50% of patients with cGvHD have limited disease and a good prognosis. Of the patients with extensive disease, approximately 60% will respond to treatment and eventually be able to discontinue immunosuppressive therapy. The remaining patients will develop opportunistic infection, or require prolonged treatment with immunosuppressive agents.
Chronic GvHD occurs in at least 30% to 50% of recipients of transplants from human leukocyte antigen matched siblings and at least 60% to 70% of recipients of transplants from unrelated donors. Risk factors include older age of patient or donor, higher degree of histoincompatibility, unrelated versus related donor, use of hematopoietic cells obtained from the blood rather than the marrow, and previous acute GvHD. Bhushan and Collins estimated that the incidence of severe cGvHD has probably increased in recent years because of the use of more unrelated transplants, donor leukocyte infusions, nonmyeloablative transplants and stem cells obtained from the blood rather than the marrow. The syndrome typically occurs 4 to 7 months after transplantation but may begin as early as 2 months or as late as 2 or more years after transplantation. Chronic GvHD may occur by itself, evolve from acute GvHD, or occur after resolution of acute GvHD.
The onset of the syndrome may be abrupt but is frequently insidious with manifestations evolving gradually for several weeks. The extent of involvement varies significantly from mild involvement limited to a few patches of skin to severe involvement of numerous organ systems and profound immunodeficiency. The most commonly involved tissues are the skin, liver, mouth, and eyes. Patients with limited disease have localized skin involvement, evidence of liver dysfunction, or both, whereas those with more involvement of the skin or involvement of other organs have extensive disease.
Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma
The optimal management of MF is undetermined because of its low prevalence, and its highly variable natural history, with frequent spontaneous remissions and exacerbations and often prolonged survival.
Nonaggressive approaches to therapy are usually warranted with treatment aimed at improving symptoms and physical appearance while limiting toxicity. Given that multiple skin sites are usually involved, the initial treatment choices are usually topical or intralesional corticosteroids or phototherapy using psoralen (a compound found in plants which make the skin temporarily sensitive to ultraviolet A) (PUVA). PUVA is not curative and its influence on disease progression remains uncertain. Repeated courses are usually required which may lead to an increased risk of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer. For thicker plaques, particularly if localized, radiotherapy with superficial electrons is an option.
“Second line” therapy for early stage disease is often topical chemotherapy, radiotherapy or total skin electron beam radiation (TSEB).
Treatment of advanced stage (IIB-IV) MF usually consists of topical or systemic therapy in refractory or rapidly progressive SS.
Bone marrow transplantation and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation have been used to treat many malignant hematologic disorders (e.g., leukemias) that are refractory to conventional treatment. Reports on the use of these procedures for the treatment of CTCL are limited and mostly consist of case reports or small case series.
Chronic Graft Versus Host Disease
Patients who develop cGvHD require reinstitution of immunosuppressive medication (if already discontinued) or an increase in dosage and possibly addition of other agents. The current literature regarding cGvHD therapy is less than optimal and many recommendations about therapy are based on common practices that await definitive testing. Patients with disease that is extensive by definition but is indolent in clinical appearance may respond to prednisone. However, patients with more aggressive disease are treated with higher doses of corticosteroids and/or cyclosporine.
Numerous salvage therapies have been considered in patients with refractory cGvHD, including ECP. Due to uncertainty around salvage therapies, Bhushan and Collins suggested that ideally, patients with refractory cGvHD should be entered into clinical trials.
Two Ontario expert consultants jointly estimated that there may be approximately 30 new erythrodermic treatment resistant CTCL patients and 30 new treatment resistant cGvHD patients per year who are unresponsive to other forms of therapy and may be candidates for ECP.
Extracorporeal photopheresis is a procedure that was initially developed as a treatment for CTCL, particularly SS.
Current Technique
Extracorporeal photopheresis is an immunomodulatory technique based on pheresis of light sensitive cells. Whole blood is removed from patients followed by pheresis. Lymphocytes are separated by centrifugation to create a concentrated layer of white blood cells. The lymphocyte layer is treated with methoxsalen (a drug that sensitizes the lymphocytes to light) and exposed to UVA, following which the lymphocytes are returned to the patient. Red blood cells and plasma are returned to the patient between each cycle.
Photosensitization is achieved by administering methoxsalen to the patient orally 2 hours before the procedure, or by injecting methoxsalen directly ino the leucocyte rich fraction. The latter approach avoids potential side effects such as nausea, and provides a more consistent drug level within the machine.
In general, from the time the intravenous line is inserted until the white blood cells are returned to the patient takes approximately 2.5-3.5 hours.
For CTCL, the treatment schedule is generally 2 consecutive days every 4 weeks for a median of 6 months. For cGvHD, an expert in the field estimated that the treatment schedule would be 3 times a week for the 1st month, then 2 consecutive days every 2 weeks after that (i.e., 4 treatments a month) for a median of 6 to 9 months.
Regulatory Status
The UVAR XTS Photopheresis System is licensed by Health Canada as a Class 3 medical device (license # 7703) for the “palliative treatment of skin manifestations of CTCL.” It is not licensed for the treatment of cGvHD.
UVADEX (sterile solution methoxsalen) is not licensed by Health Canada, but can be used in Canada via the Special Access Program. (Personal communication, Therakos, February 16, 2006)
According to the manufacturer, the UVAR XTS photopheresis system licensed by Health Canada can also be used with oral methoxsalen. (Personal communication, Therakos, February 16, 2006) However, oral methoxsalen is associated with side effects, must be taken by the patient in advance of ECP, and has variable absorption in the gastrointestinal tract.
According to Health Canada, UVADEX is not approved for use in Canada. In addition, a review of the Product Monographs of the methoxsalen products that have been approved in Canada showed that none of them have been approved for oral administration in combination with the UVAR XTS photophoresis system for “the palliative treatment of the skin manifestations of cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma”.
In the United States, the UVAR XTS Photopheresis System is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for “use in the ultraviolet-A (UVA) irradiation in the presence of the photoactive drug methoxsalen of extracorporeally circulating leukocyte-enriched blood in the palliative treatment of the skin manifestations of CTCL in persons who have not been responsive to other therapy.”
UVADEX is approved by the FDA for use in conjunction with UVR XTS photopheresis system for “use in the ultraviolet-A (UVA) irradiation in the presence of the photoactive drug methoxsalen of extracorporeally circulating leukocyte-enriched blood in the palliative treatment of the skin manifestations of CTCL in persons who have not been responsive to other therapy.”
The use of the UVAR XTS photopheresis system or UVADEX for cGvHD is an off-label use of a FDA approved device/drug.
Summary of Findings
The quality of the trials was examined.
As stated by the GRADE Working Group, the following definitions were used in grading the quality of the evidence.
Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma
Overall, there is low-quality evidence that ECP improves response rates and survival in patients with refractory erythrodermic CTCL (Table 1).
Limitations in the literature related to ECP for the treatment of refractory erythrodermic CTCL include the following:
Different treatment regimens.
Variety of forms of CTCL (and not necessarily treatment resistant) - MF, erythrodermic MF, SS.
SS with peripheral blood involvement → role of T cell clonality reporting?
Case series (1 small crossover RCT with several limitations)
Small sample sizes.
Response criteria not clearly defined/consistent.
Unclear how concomitant therapy contributed to responses.
Variation in definitions of concomitant therapy
Comparison to historical controls.
Some patients were excluded from analysis because of progression of disease, toxicity and other reasons.
Unclear/strange statistics
Quality of life not reported as an outcome of interest.
The reported CR range is ~ 16% to 23% and the overall reported CR/PR range is ~ 33% to 80%.
The wide range in reported responses to ECP appears to be due to the variability of the patients treated and the way in which the data were presented and analyzed.
Many patients, in mostly retrospective case series, were concurrently on other therapies and were not assessed for comparability of diagnosis or disease stage (MF versus SS; erythrodermic versus not erythrodermic). Blood involvement in patients receiving ECP (e.g., T cell clonality) was not consistently reported, especially in earlier studies. The definitions of partial and complete response also are not standardized or consistent between studies.
Quality of life was reported in one study; however, the scale was developed by the authors and is not a standard validated scale.
Adverse events associated with ECP appear to be uncommon and most involve catheter related infections and hypotension caused by volume depletion.
GRADE Quality of Studies – Extracorporeal Photopheresis for Refractory Erythrodermic Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma
Chronic Graft-Versus-Host Disease
Overall, there is low-quality evidence that ECP improves response rates and survival in patients with refractory cGvHD (Table 2).
Patients in the studies had stem cell transplants due to a variety of hematological disorders (e.g., leukemias, aplastic anemia, thalassemia major, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non Hodgkin’s lymphoma).
In 2001, The Blue Cross Blue Shield Technology Evaluation Centre concluded that ECP meets the TEC criteria as treatment of cGvHD that is refractory to established therapy.
The Catalan health technology assessment (also published in 2001) concluded that ECP is a new but experimental therapeutic alternative for the treatment of the erythrodermal phase of CTCL and cGvHD in allogenic HPTC and that this therapy should be evaluated in the framework of a RCT.
Quality of life (Lansky/Karnofsky play performance score) was reported in 1 study.
The patients in the studies were all refractory to steroids and other immunosuppressive agents, and these drugs were frequently continued concomitantly with ECP.
Criteria for assessment of organ improvement in cGvHD are variable, but PR was typically defined as >50% improvement from baseline parameters and CR as complete resolution of organ involvement.
Followup was variable and incomplete among the studies.
GRADE Quality of Studies – ECP for Refractory cGvHD
As per the GRADE Working Group, overall recommendations consider 4 main factors.
The tradeoffs, taking into account the estimated size of the effect for the main outcome, the confidence limits around those estimates and the relative value placed on the outcome.
The quality of the evidence (Tables 1 and 2).
Translation of the evidence into practice in a specific setting, taking into consideration important factors that could be expected to modify the size of the expected effects such as proximity to a hospital or availability of necessary expertise.
Uncertainty about the baseline risk for the population of interest.
The GRADE Working Group also recommends that incremental costs of healthcare alternatives should be considered explicitly alongside the expected health benefits and harms. Recommendations rely on judgments about the value of the incremental health benefits in relation to the incremental costs. The last column in Table 3 is the overall trade-off between benefits and harms and incorporates any risk/uncertainty.
For refractory erythrodermic CTCL, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is “weak” – the quality of the evidence is “low” (uncertainties due to methodological limitations in the study design in terms of study quality and directness), and the corresponding risk/uncertainty is increased due to an annual budget impact of approximately $1.5M Cdn (based on 30 patients) while the cost-effectiveness of ECP is unknown and difficult to estimate considering that there are no high quality studies of effectiveness. The device is licensed by Health Canada, but the sterile solution of methoxsalen is not licensed.
With an annual budget impact of $1.5 M Cdn (based on 30 patients), and the current expenditure is $1.3M Cdn (for out of country for 7 patients), the potential cost savings based on 30 patients with refractory erythrodermic CTCL is about $3.8 M Cdn (annual).
For refractory cGvHD, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is “weak” – the quality of the evidence is “low” (uncertainties due to methodological limitations in the study design in terms of study quality and directness), and the corresponding risk/uncertainty is increased due to a budget impact of approximately $1.5M Cdn while the cost-effectiveness of ECP is unknown and difficult to estimate considering that there are no high quality studies of effectiveness. Both the device and sterile solution are not licensed by Health Canada for the treatment of cGvHD.
If all the ECP procedures for patients with refractory erythrodermic CTCL and refractory cGvHD were performed in Ontario, the annual budget impact would be approximately $3M Cdn.
Overall GRADE and Strength of Recommendation (Including Uncertainty)
PMCID: PMC3379535  PMID: 23074497
8.  Unrelated Donor Bone Marrow Transplantation for Children With Acute Myeloid Leukemia Beyond First Remission or Refractory to Chemotherapy 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2008;26(26):4326-4332.
Identify prognostic factors that influence outcome after unrelated donor bone marrow transplantation in children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Patients and Methods
Included are 268 patients (age ≤ 18 years) with AML in second complete remission (n = 142), relapse (n = 90), or primary induction failure (n = 36) at transplantation. All patients received bone marrow grafts from an unrelated donor and a myeloablative conditioning regimen. Cox regression models were constructed to identify risk factors that influence outcome after transplantation.
In this analysis, the only risk factor that predicted leukemia recurrence and overall and leukemia-free survival was disease status at transplantation. The 5-year probabilities of leukemia-free survival were 45%, 20%, and 12% for patients who underwent transplantation at second complete remission, relapse, and primary induction failure, respectively. As expected, risk of acute but not chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) was lower with T-cell–depleted bone marrow grafts; T-cell–depleted grafts were not associated with higher risks of leukemia recurrence. We observed similar risks of leukemia relapse in patients with and without acute and chronic GVHD.
Children who underwent transplantation in remission had a superior outcome compared with children who underwent transplantation during relapse or persistent disease. Nevertheless, 20% of children who underwent transplantation in relapse are long-term survivors, suggesting that unrelated donor bone marrow transplantation is an effective therapy in a significant proportion of children with recurrent or primary refractory AML.
PMCID: PMC2653120  PMID: 18779619
9.  Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplantation in First Remission for Children With Ultra-High-Risk Features of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: A Children’s Oncology Group Study Report 
The prognosis for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has improved dramatically over the past quarter of a century. Despite improvements in the treatment of childhood ALL, relapse still occurs in 20 to 30% of patients. While many of these relapses occur in the “standard-risk” patients, approximately 10% of these patients present at diagnosis with clinical and biological features that identify them as very high risk of relapse. Children (2 months-21 years) with at least one ultra-high-risk feature (UHRF) of ALL in first remission treated on a frontline Children’s Cancer Group (CCG) ALL study with a matched family allogeneic donor were eligible for study entry onto CCG-1921 and an allogeneic bone marrow transplant (AlloBMT). Each patient received fractionated total body irradiation (1200 cGy) and cyclophosphamide (120 mg/kg) conditioning therapy followed by unmobilized bone marrow from a matched family donor. Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) prophylaxis consisted of methotrexate and cyclosporin. Twenty-nine patients with median age of 8.7 years with UHRF ALL in first complete remission (CR1) received an AlloBMT from a family member. The incidence of grade II–IV acute GVHD was 20.7% and the incidence of chronic GVHD was 3.7%. AlloBMT conditioning regimen was well tolerated and only one patient (3%) had treatment-related mortality. Ten patients (35%) died due to progressive disease. The 5-year event free survival (EFS) for all patients was 58.6% and patients without cytogenetic abnormalities had a 5-year EFS of 77.8%. The 5-year EFS for infants and non-infants was 20.0% and 66.7% (log Rank p=0.01), respectively. Patients with Philadelphia chromosome positive ALL had a 5-year EFS of 66.7%. The children with UHRF of ALL may benefit from AlloBMT in CR1, especially patients with primary induction failure and Philadelphia chromosome positive ALL. Randomized prospective cooperative group studies are required to establish the role of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation vs intensive chemotherapy in children with UHRF ALL in CR1.
PMCID: PMC2731715  PMID: 17241927
childhood acute lympoblastic leukemia; stem cell transplant; Philadelphia chromosome positive ALL; infantile ALL; induction failure
10.  Acute leukemia in adults: assessment of remission induction with combination chemotherapy by clinical and cell-culture criteria. 
Remission induction was assessed by clinical and cell-culture criteria for 65 patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), 11 patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in blast crisis and 19 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Cyclophosphamide, cytosine arabinoside and vincristine (CAV) therapy resulted in complete remission in 23 of 50 previously untreated patients with AML and in 3 of the 11 patients with CML. Fourteen patients with ALL responded to vincristine-prednisone induction therapy and two to induction therapy with CAV. The median duration of survival of the responding patients was 2.2 years, compared with 4 months for the patients who did not respond to treatment. Granulopoietic colony formation, assessed by assay of colony-forming units dependent on colony-stimulating activity in culture (CFU-C), was abnormal in 37 of 42 bone marrow aspirates from patients with AML before treatement. CFU-C concentration increased when leukocyte-conditioned medium (LCM) was added to the cultures; 13 cultures had normal or elevated CFU-C concentration with LCM. Marrow cells of patients with ALL or CML in blast crisis demonstrated a similar pattern. Serial studies of marrow CFU-C concentration of 31 patients with AML demonstrated a change to a normal pattern with successful remission induction. Results of this study suggest that administration of purified LCM to leukemic patients might increase granulocyte production from potential but unstimulated granulopoietic precursors. This therapy would lessen the probability of death from infection during remission induction.
PMCID: PMC1956383  PMID: 1056807
11.  Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation in First Remission Abrogates Poor Outcomes Associated with High-Risk Pediatric Acute Myeloid Leukemia 
Despite remission rates of approximately 85% for children diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), greater than 40% will die from relapsed disease. Patients with poor-risk molecular/cytogenetics and/or inadequate response to upfront therapy are typically considered high-risk (HR) and historically have poor outcomes with chemotherapy alone. We investigated whether allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT) with best available donor in first remission (CR1) would abrogate the poor outcomes associated with HR AML in chemotherapy treated children and young adults. We reviewed the outcomes of 50 consecutive children and young adults (ages 0–30 years) with AML who received a myeloablative allo-HCT between 2001 and 2010. Thirty-six patients (72%) were HR, defined as having FLT3-ITD mutations, 11q23 MLL rearrangements, chromosome 5 or 7 abnormalities, induction failure and/or having persistent disease. The majority of patients received cyclophosphamide and total body irradiation conditioning and graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) prophylaxis was cyclosporine based. Transplant outcomes for HR patients were compared to standard-risk patients with no significant differences observed in overall survival (72% vs. 78%, p=0.72), leukemia-free survival (69% vs. 79%, p=0.62), relapse (11% vs. 7%, p=0.71) or TRM (17% vs. 14%, p=0.89). Children and young adults with HR-AML have comparable outcomes to standard-risk patients following allo-HCT in CR1.
PMCID: PMC3712759  PMID: 23567175
AML; High-Risk; transplantation; pediatric
12.  Adult B lymphoblastic leukaemia/lymphoma with hypodiploidy (-9) and a novel chromosomal translocation t(7;12)(q22;p13) presenting with severe eosinophilia – case report and review of literature 
Patients suffering from adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia are acutely ill and present most commonly with fever, pallor, bleeding, lymphadenopathy, hepatosplenomegaly and presence of lymphoblasts in the peripheral blood and bone marrow. We describe a rare presentation of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, in a young adult male who had vague and minimal symptoms with mild splenomegaly. There was severe eosinophilia along with absence of blasts in the peripheral blood, and 40% blasts with increase in eosinophils in the bone marrow. The blasts were positive for common precursor B cell markers on flow cytometry. The patient had a unique cytogenetic abnormality t(7;12)(q22;p13),-9, not previously described in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was categorized as poor risk due to failure to achieve complete remission after induction with UK ALL XII chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2706857  PMID: 19545391
13.  Effective treatment of advanced-stage childhood lymphoblastic lymphoma without prophylactic cranial irradiation: Results of St Jude NHL13 study 
There has been a steady improvement in cure rates for children with advanced-stage lymphoblastic non-Hodgkin lymphoma. To further improve cure rates while minimizing long-term toxicity, we designed a protocol (NHL13) based on a regimen for childhood T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which features intensive intrathecal chemotherapy for central-nervous-system-directed therapy and excludes prophylactic cranial irradiation. From 1992 to 2002, 41 patients with advanced-stage lymphoblastic lymphoma were enrolled on the protocol. Thirty patients had stage III and 11 had stage IV disease. Thirty-three cases had a precursor T-cell immunophenotype, 5 were precursor B-cell and in 3 immunophenotype was not determined. Thirty-nine of the 41 (95%) patients achieved a complete remission. The 5-year event-free rate was 82.9% ± 6.3% (SE) and 5-year overall survival rates was 90.2% ± 4.8% (median follow-up 9.3 years [range 4.62 to 13.49 years]). Adverse events included 2 induction failures, 1 death from typhlitis during remission, 3 relapses, and 1 secondary acute myeloid leukemia. The treatment described here produces high cure rates in children with lymphoblastic lymphoma without the use of prophylactic cranial irradiation.
PMCID: PMC2843413  PMID: 19194463
advanced-stage; pediatric; lymphoblastic lymphoma
14.  Comparison of Reduced-Intensity Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation with Chemotherapy in Patients Aged 60–70 Years with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in First Remission 
We compared the outcomes of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients aged 60–70 years receiving reduced-intensity allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) in first remission (CR1) reported to the Center for International Blood and Marrow Research (CIBMTR) (N=94) with outcomes in patients treated with induction and post-remission chemotherapy on Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) protocols (N=96). All patients included had remained in CR1 for at least 4 months. HCT recipients were slightly younger than chemotherapy patients (median ages: 63 v 65 years; P<0.001), with no significant differences in the proportion with therapy-related leukemia or in different cytogenetic risk groups. Time from diagnosis to CR1 was longer for HCT recipients (median: 44 v 38 days; P=0.031). Allogeneic HCT was associated with significantly lower risk of relapse (32% v 81% at 3 years; P<0.001), higher non-relapse mortality (36% v 4% at 3 years; P<0.001), and longer leukemia-free survival (32% v 15% at 3 years; P=0.001). Although overall survival was longer for HCT recipients, this was not statistically significant (37% v 25% at 3 years; P=0.08). RIC allogeneic HCT in CR1 AML patients aged 60–70 years reduces relapse and improves leukemia-free survival. Strategies that reduce non-relapse mortality may yield significant improvements in overall survival.
PMCID: PMC3817558  PMID: 21699879
acute myeloid leukemia; allogeneic; reduced-intensity transplantation
15.  Treatment of Relapsed Precursor-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia With Intensive Chemotherapy: POG (Pediatric Oncology Group) Study 9411 (SIMAL 9) 
Pediatric patients who experience a bone marrow relapse of precursor-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia are cured < 50% of the time. This study was designed to determine if intensification of therapies with known activity in this disease would improve the cure rates for patients with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Patients were treated with intensive asparaginase during induction followed by repeated cycles of ifosfamide/etoposide and cytarabine/idarubicin. Patients with well-matched related donors were encouraged to undergo hematopoietic stem cell transplant as consolidation. The results of this study demonstrate no significant difference in disease-free survival in patients who received chemotherapy alone (45%) or chemotherapy followed by allogeneic stem cell transplant (50%). Furthermore, results from this study show no significant difference in event-free survival (39.9% ± 6.2%) or overall survival (41.6% ± 6.1%) at 8 years when compared with previous studies using less intensive regimens. Our results suggest that alternative therapies are needed to improve cure rates for pediatric patients with relapsed leukemia.
PMCID: PMC3957178  PMID: 23887024
relapsed precursor-B; ALL; intensive chemotherapy; POG study 9411; SIMAL 9
16.  Monitoring of minimal residual disease (MRD) is useful to predict prognosis of adult patients with Ph-negative ALL: results of a prospective study (ALL MRD2002 Study) 
Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) for patients with Philadelphia chromosome (Ph)-negative acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in first complete remission (CR1) is much more intensive than multi-agent combined chemotherapy, although allogeneic HSCT is associated with increased morbidity and mortality when compared with such chemotherapy. Minimal residual disease (MRD) status has been proven to be a strong prognostic factor for adult patients with Ph-negative ALL.
We investigated whether MRD status in adult patients with ALL is useful to decide clinical indications for allogeneic HSCT. We prospectively monitored MRD after induction and consolidation therapy in adult patients with Ph-negative ALL.
Of 110 adult ALL patients enrolled between July 2002 and August 2008, 101 were eligible, including 59 Ph-negative patients. MRD status was assessed in 43 patients by the detection of major rearrangements in TCR and Ig and the presence of chimeric mRNA. Thirty-nine patients achieved CR1, and their probabilities of 3-year overall survival and disease-free survival (DFS) were 74% and 56%, respectively. Patients who were MRD-negative after induction therapy (n = 26) had a significantly better 3-year DFS compared with those who were MRD-positive (n = 13; 69% vs. 31%, p = 0.004). All of 3 patients who were MRD-positive following consolidation chemotherapy and did not undergo allogeneic HSCT, relapsed and died within 3 years after CR.
These results indicate that MRD monitoring is useful for determining the clinical indications for allogeneic HSCT in the treatment of ALL in CR1.
PMCID: PMC3574830  PMID: 23388549
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia; Minimal residual disease; Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; Adult
17.  Treatment of Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Without Prophylactic Cranial Irradiation 
The New England journal of medicine  2009;360(26):2730-2741.
We conducted a clinical trial to test whether prophylactic cranial irradiation could be omitted in all children with newly diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
A total of 498 evaluable patients were enrolled. Treatment intensity was based on presenting features and the level of minimal residual disease after remission induction treatment. Continuous complete remission was compared between the 71 patients who previously would have received prophylactic cranial irradiation and the 56 historical controls who received it.
The 5-year event-free and overall survival probabilities (95% confidence interval) for all 498 patients were 85.6% (79.9% to 91.3%) and 93.5% (89.8% to 97.2%), respectively. The 5-year cumulative risk of isolated central-nervous-system (CNS) relapse was 2.7% (1.1% to 4.2%), and that of any CNS relapse (isolated plus combined) was 3.9% (1.9% to 5.9%). The 71 patients had significantly better continuous complete remission than the 56 historical controls (P=0.04). All 11 patients with isolated CNS relapse remain in second remission for 0.4 to 5.5 years. CNS leukemia (CNS-3 status) or a traumatic lumbar puncture with blasts at diagnosis and a high level of minimal residual disease (≥ 1%) after 6 weeks of remission induction were significantly associated with poorer event-free survival. Risk factors for CNS relapse included the presence of the t(1;19)[TCF3-PBX1], any CNS involvement at diagnosis, and T-cell immunophenotype. Common adverse effects included allergic reactions to L-asparaginase, osteonecrosis, thrombosis, and disseminated fungal infection.
With effective risk-adjusted chemotherapy, prophylactic cranial irradiation can be safely omitted in the treatment of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
PMCID: PMC2754320  PMID: 19553647
18.  Factors that contribute to long-term survival in patients with leukemia not in remission at allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation 
There has been insufficient examination of the factors affecting long-term survival of more than 5 years in patients with leukemia that is not in remission at transplantation.
We retrospectively analyzed leukemia not in remission at allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT) performed at our institution between January 1999 and July 2009. Forty-two patients with a median age of 39 years received intensified conditioning (n = 9), standard (n = 12) or reduced-intensity conditioning (n = 21) for allo-HCT. Fourteen patients received individual chemotherapy for cytoreduction during the three weeks prior to reduced-intensity conditioning. Diagnoses comprised acute leukemia (n = 29), chronic myeloid leukemia-accelerated phase (n = 2), myelodysplastic syndrome/acute myeloid leukemia (MDS/AML) (n = 10) and plasma cell leukemia (n = 1). In those with acute leukemia, cytogenetic abnormalities were intermediate (44%) or poor (56%). The median number of blast cells in bone marrow (BM) was 26.0% (range; 0.2-100) before the start of chemotherapy for allo-HCT. Six patients had leukemic involvement of the central nervous system. Stem cell sources were related BM (7%), related peripheral blood (31%), unrelated BM (48%) and unrelated cord blood (CB) (14%).
Engraftment was achieved in 33 (79%) of 42 patients. Median time to engraftment was 17 days (range: 9-32). At five years, the cumulative probabilities of acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and chronic GVHD were 63% and 37%, respectively. With a median follow-up of 85 months for surviving patients, the five-year Kaplan-Meier estimates of leukemia-free survival rate and overall survival (OS) were 17% and 19%, respectively. At five years, the cumulative probability of non-relapse mortality was 38%. In the univariable analyses of the influence of pre-transplant variables on OS, poor-risk cytogenetics, number of BM blasts (>26%), MDS overt AML and CB as stem cell source were significantly associated with worse prognosis (p = .03, p = .01, p = .02 and p < .001, respectively). In addition, based on a landmark analysis at 6 months post-transplant, the five-year Kaplan-Meier estimates of OS in patients with and without prior history of chronic GVHD were 64% and 17% (p = .022), respectively.
Graft-versus-leukemia effects possibly mediated by chronic GVHD may have played a crucial role in long-term survival in, or cure of active leukemia.
PMCID: PMC3083370  PMID: 21477348
19.  Absence of Biallelic TCRγ Deletion Predicts Early Treatment Failure in Pediatric T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2010;28(24):3816-3823.
To identify children with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) at high risk of induction chemotherapy failure by using DNA copy number analysis of leukemic cells collected at diagnosis.
Patients and Methods
Array comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) was performed on genomic DNA extracted from diagnostic lymphoblasts from 47 children with T-ALL treated on Children's Oncology Group Study P9404 or Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Protocol 00-01. These samples represented nine patients who did not achieve an initial complete remission, 13 who relapsed, and 25 who became long-term, event-free survivors. The findings were confirmed in an independent cohort of patients by quantitative DNA polymerase chain reaction (DNA-PCR), an assay that is well suited for clinical application.
Analysis of the CGH findings in patients in whom induction chemotherapy failed compared with those in whom induction chemotherapy was successful identified the absence of biallelic TCRγ locus deletion (ABD), a characteristic of early thymocyte precursors before V(D)J recombination, as the most robust predictor of induction failure (P < .001). This feature was also associated with markedly inferior event-free (P = .002) and overall survival (P < .001) rates: 25% versus 58% and 25% versus 72%, respectively. Using a rapid and inexpensive quantitative DNA-PCR assay, we validated ABD as a predictor of a poor response to induction chemotherapy in an independent series of patients.
Lymphoblasts from children with T-ALL should be evaluated at diagnosis for deletion within the TCRγ locus. Patients lacking biallelic deletion, which confers a high probability of induction failure with contemporary therapy, should be assigned to alternative therapy in the context of a prospective clinical trial.
PMCID: PMC2940399  PMID: 20644084
20.  Clofarabine±Fludarabine with Once Daily IV Busulfan as Pretransplant Conditioning Therapy for Advanced Myeloid Leukemia and MDS 
While a combination of IV busulfan (Bu) and fludarabine (Flu) is a safe, reduced-toxicity conditioning program for AML/MDS, recurrent leukemia post transplantation remains a problem. To enhance the conditioning regimen’s antileukemic effect we decided to supplant Flu with clofarabine (Clo), and assayed the interactions of these nucleoside analogs alone and in combination with Busulfan (Bu) in Bu-resistant human cell lines in vitro. We found pronounced synergy between each nucleoside and the alkylator but even more enhanced cytotoxic synergy when the nucleoside analogs were combined prior to exposing the cells to Bu. We then designed a 4-arm clinical trial in patients with myeloid leukemia undergoing allogeneic stem cell transplantation (allo-SCT); Patients were adaptively randomized as follows: Arm I - Clo:Flu 10:30 mg/m2, Arm II - 20:20 mg/m2, Arm III - 30:10 mg/m2, and Arm IV - single-agent Clo at 40 mg/m2. The nucleoside analog(s) were/was infused over one hour once daily for 4 days, followed on each day by Bu, infused over 3 hours to a pharmacokinetically targeted daily AUC of 6,000 μMol-min +/− 10%. Fifty-one patients have been enrolled with a minimum follow-up exceeding 100 days. There were 32 males and 19 females with a median age of 45 years (range: 6-59). Nine patients had CML (BC: 2, second AP: 3, and tyrosine-kinase inhibitor refractory first CP: 4). Forty two patients had AML: 14 were induction failures, 8 in first chemotherapy-refractory relapse, 7 in untreated relapse, 3 in second or subsequent relapse, 4 were in second CR and 3 in second CR without platelet recovery (CRp), 2 were in high-risk CR1. Finally, 1 patient was in first CRp. Graft vs host disease- (GVHD) prophylaxis was tacrolimus and mini-MTX, and those who had an unrelated or one Ag-mismmatched donor received low-dose rabbit-ATG (Thymoglobulin™). RESULTS: All patients engrafted. Forty-one patients had active leukemia at the time of transplant, and 35 achieved CR (85%). Twenty of the 42 AML patients and 5 of 9 CML patients are alive with a projected median overall survival of 23 months. Marrow and blood (T-cell) chimerism studies at day +100 revealed that both in the lower dose Clo groups (groups 1+2) and the higher dose Clo groups (groups 3+4) the patients had a median of 100% donor (T-cell)-derived DNA. There has been no secondary graft failure. In the first 100 days one patient died of pneumonia, and one of liver GVHD. We conclude that 1) Clo±Flu with IV Bu as pretranslant conditioning is safe in high-risk myeloid leukemia patients, 2) Clofarabine is sufficiently immunosuppressive to support allo-SCT in myeloid leukemia, and 3) the median overall survival (OS) of 23 months in this high-risk patient population is encouraging. Additional studies to evaluate the antileukemic efficacy of Clo±Flu with IV Bu as pretransplant conditioning therapy are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3760472  PMID: 20946966
Clofarabine; Fludarabine; IV Busulfan; CML; AML; MDS; Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation
21.  Favorable Survival Maintained in Children Who Have Myeloid Leukemia Associated With Down Syndrome Using Reduced-Dose Chemotherapy on Children’s Oncology Group Trial A2971 
Cancer  2012;118(19):10.1002/cncr.27484.
Children who are treated for myeloid leukemia associated with Down syndrome (DS) experience superior survival compared with children who have myeloid leukemia without DS. To maintain excellent outcomes while avoiding toxicity, the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) conducted the phase 3 trial COG A2971, the first trial solely designed to provide uniform treatment of myeloid leukemia in North American children with DS. A2971 eliminated 2 induction drugs and 3 months of maintenance therapy from the standard-timing regimen of dexamethasone, cytarabine, 6-thioguanine, etoposide, and rubidomycin/daunomycin (DCTER) used in the previous study (Children’s Cancer Group [CCG] 2891).
COG A2971 was a multi-institutional, nonrandomized, clinical trial that enrolled 132 patients who had DS with either acute myeloid leukemia (n = 91) or myelodysplastic syndrome (n = 41).
The median follow-up was 4.8 years (range, 0.8–8.6 years), the median age at diagnosis was 1.7 years (range, 0.3–13.6 years), and the median white blood cell count was 6200/μL (range, 900–164,900/μL). The remission rate (92.7% ± 6%) was similar to that reported in the CCG 2891 study (91.3% ± 5%; P = .679). The 5-year event free survival (EFS) rate was 79% ± 7% (vs 77% ± 7% in CCG 2891; P = .589), the disease-free survival (DFS) rate was 89% ± 6% (vs 85% ± 6% in CCG 2891; P = .337), and the overall survival rate was 84% ± 6% (vs 79% ± 7% in CCG 2891; P = .302). Induction day-14 bone marrow response trended toward a more favorable outcome (EFS: P = .12). Age >4 years was an adverse risk factor (5-year EFS rate: 33% ± 38% for children aged >4 years [median, 8.5 years; n = 6] vs 81% ± 7% for children ages 0–4 years [median, 1.7 years; n = 126]; P = .001).
The COG A2971 trial reduced the chemotherapy dose and maintained survival to that achieved by the CCG 2891 trial in children who had myeloid leukemia associated with DS.
PMCID: PMC3879144  PMID: 22392565
myelodysplastic syndrome; myeloid leukemia; Down syndrome; Children’s Oncology Group Trial A2971
22.  Outcomes in Patients With Relapsed or Refractory Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia Treated With or Without Autologous or Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation 
Outcomes in patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia have improved; however, a subset of patients relapse despite receiving all-trans-retinoic acid and/or arsenic-based therapies. Among 40 patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia who were treated at our institution (1980–2010), 24 received hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT) (autologous HCT, 7; allogeneic HCT, 14; both, 3); 16 received chemotherapy only. All 3 strategies (autologous HCT, allogeneic HCT, chemotherapy) were feasible in patients with relapsed acute promyelocytic leukemia and result in long-term disease control in selected patients.
Outcomes in patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) have improved; however, a significant number of patients still relapse despite receiving all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) and arsenic-based therapies.
Patients and Methods
Outcomes of patients with relapsed APL who were treated at our institution (1980–2010) and who received HCT were compared with those who received chemotherapy (CT) only.
Among 40 patients, 24 received HCT (autologous [auto] HCT, 7; allogeneic [allo] HCT, 14; both, 3); 16 received CT only. The median age at diagnosis was 36 years (range, 13–50 years), 31 years (range, 16–58 years), and 44 years (range, 24–79 years) for the auto-HCT, allo-HCT, and CT groups, respectively. Ten (100%) patients who received auto-HCT and 12 (71%) who received allo-HCT were in complete remission at the time of the HCT. The median follow-ups in the auto-HCT, allo-HCT, and CT groups were 74 months (range, 26–135 months), 118 months (range, 28–284 months), and 122 months (range, 32–216 months), respectively. Transplantation-related mortality (1 year) after auto-HCT and allo-HCT were 10% and 29%, respectively. The 7-year event-free survival after auto-HCT and allo-HCT was 68.6% and 40.6%, respectively (P = .45). The 7-year overall survival was 85.7%, 49.4%, and 40% in the auto-HCT, allo-HCT, and CT groups, respectively (P = .48).
Both auto-HCT and allo-HCT are associated with durable remission and prolonged survival. All 3 strategies (auto-HCT, allo-HCT, CT) were found to be feasible in the relapsed APL setting and result in long-term disease control in selected patients. In this retrospective analysis, overall survival for patients who received HCT was not significantly better than patients who received CT only, but a trend toward better outcomes was seen in patients who underwent auto-HCT, although not statistically significant.
PMCID: PMC4112369  PMID: 23769669
Acute myeloid leukemia; Acute promyelocytic leukemia; Allogeneic transplantation; Autologous transplantation; Bone marrow transplantation; Stem cell transplantation
23.  Impact of age, leukocyte count and day 21-bone marrow response to chemotherapy on the long-term outcome of children with philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the pre-imatinib era: results of the FRALLE 93 study 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:14.
We explored the heterogeneity of philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph1-ALL) in a study of the effect of early features on prognosis in children. Here we report the long-term results of the FRALLE 93 study conducted in the era before the use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
Between 1993 and 1999, 36 children with Ph1-ALL were enrolled into the FRALLE 93 protocol. After conventional four-drug induction, children were stratified by availability of an HLA-matched sibling.
Complete remission (CR) was observed in 26 children (72%), of which 13 underwent allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT). Thirty-one children were good responders to prednisone, defined on day 8, and 21 were good responders to chemotherapy, defined by day-21 bone marrow (M1). Overall five-year disease-free survival (DFS) was 42 ± 9.7%. Based on multivariate analysis, two groups showed marked differences in five-year outcome: children with age<10, leukocyte count <100,000/mm3 and day-21 M1 marrow had a more favorable prognosis (14 pts: 100% CR, event free survival [EFS]: 57%, overall survival [OS]: 79%), than the high-risk group (22 patients: 55% CR, EFS: 18%, OS: 27%) (p < 0.005). We also observed a non statistically significant difference (p = 0.14) in outcome between these groups for transplanted patients (5-year DFS: 83 ± 14% and 33 ± 15%, respectively).
Age, leukocyte count and early response to treatment defined by the D21 bone marrow response provide an accurate model for outcome prediction. The combination of available tools such as minimal residual disease assessment with determination of these simple factors could be useful for refining indications for BMT in the current era of tyrosine-kinase inhibitor-based therapy.
PMCID: PMC2629767  PMID: 19144139
24.  Myelodysplastic Syndrome with Myelofibrosis Transformed to a Precursor B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: A Case Report with Review of the Literature 
Case Reports in Hematology  2012;2012:207537.
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) comprise a group of heterogeneous clonal hematopoietic cell disorders characterized by cytopenias, bone marrow hypercellularity, and increased risk of transformation to acute leukemias. MDS usually transformed to acute myeloid leukemia, and transformation to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is rare. Herein, we report a unique patient who presented with MDS with myelofibrosis. Two months after the initial diagnosis, she progressed to a precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She was treated with induction therapy followed by allogenic stem cell transplantation. She was alive and doing well upon last followup. We have also reviewed the literature and discussed the clinicopathologic features of 36 MDS patients who progressed to ALL reported in the literature.
PMCID: PMC3420696  PMID: 22937321
25.  Treatment outcomes in relapsed acute promyelocytic leukemia patients initially treated with all-trans retinoic acid and arsenic compound-based combined therapies 
Oncology Letters  2013;7(1):177-182.
Contemporary combined therapies that include the use of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) and arsenic compounds have reduced relapse rates from ~50 to <10% in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) patients, however relapse treatment remains controversial. Treatment outcomes in relapsed patients with APL previously treated with combined ATRA + arsenic compound therapy were investigated. A retrospective, observational study was conducted of 25 patients with APL (male to female ratio, 17:8; mean age, 36.4±10.3 years) exhibiting first-time relapse following combined ATRA + arsenic compound therapy. These patients were subsequently treated with secondary ATRA + arsenic compound therapy, salvage chemotherapy, monoclonal antibody therapy or intrathecal chemotherapy, between January 1994 and December 2010. The overall remission rate, duration of remission and toxic effects were assessed. Patient outcomes included mortality during secondary induction therapy (6/25, 24.0%); complete recovery from central nervous system (CNS) relapse following intrathecal chemotherapy (1/25, 4.0%); complete remission following ATRA + arsenic compound therapy (10/25, 40.0%), chemotherapy (3/25, 12.0%) and targeted therapy (1/25, 4.0%); and non-remission (NR) following ATRA + arsenic compound therapy (4/25, 16%). Four (16.0%) patients were subsequently treated with allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT), two of which remained disease-free at the end of the study period and two of which succumbed to the disease. Secondary bone marrow and CNS relapse occurred in 14 (56.0%) patients and one (4.0%) patient, respectively. ATRA + arsenic compound-based combination therapy was effective in re-inducing morphological remission in relapsed patients with APL with previous exposure to ATRA + arsenic compounds, producing low molecular remission rates and high risk of secondary relapse. Furthermore, investigation of early allo-HSCT is required to determine its potential as a therapeutic option for re-inducing morphological remission in relapsed patients with APL with previous exposure to ATRA + arsenic compounds.
PMCID: PMC3861585  PMID: 24348844
acute promyelocytic leukemia; relapse; re-induction therapy; remission; all-trans retinoic acid; arsenic compound

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