An escalating methotrexate strategy provided superior survival outcomes compared with high-dose methotrexate in a chemotherapy regimen for children and young adults with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), results of a large, randomized trial show.
There were also fewer relapses reported for escalating versus high-dose methotrexate in the study, which evaluated the effects of these two intensification strategies in patients receiving an augmented Berlin-Frankfurt-Muenster (ABFM) chemotherapy regimen.
These findings come from a report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) AALL0434 trial, which to the knowledge of the investigators is the largest T-ALL study ever conducted.
The improved survival outcomes in AALL0434 are the “opposite effect” of what was observed in a parallel trial, AALL0232, showing that high-dose methotrexate was superior to the escalating strategy in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), the authors reported.
The parallel trial design was in fact used because of the known differences between T-ALL and B-ALL in sensitivity to methotrexate and pegaspargase, according to investigator Stuart S. Winter, MD, of Children’s Minnesota Cancer and Blood Disorders Program, Minneapolis, and his coauthors.
“Although treatment intensification has improved survival for children with ALL, the best timing and sequence of key therapeutic interventions, such as asparaginase and methotrexate, which seem to be particularly important for T-ALL, remain unclear,” Dr. Winter and his colleagues said.
In the AALL0434 study, a total of 1,031 T-ALL patients between 1 and 31 years of age without CNS3 disease or testicular leukemia were randomized to postinduction therapy that included either the so-called Capizzi-style escalating intravenous methotrexate or high-dose methotrexate.
The escalating intravenous regimen was superior to high-dose methotrexate, according to investigators. Respectively, the 5-year rate of disease-free survival was 91.5% versus 85.3% (P = .005) and the 5-year rate of overall survival was 93.7% versus 89.4% (P = .036).
Relapses were observed in 32 patients receiving the escalating regimen, versus 59 for patients receiving high-dose methotrexate.
By contrast, the parallel AALL0232 study of B-ALL patients showed that high-dose methotrexate had superior 5-year event-free survival and overall survival, leading Dr. Winter and his colleagues to speculate on how the findings could be reconciled.
Neither trial was a strict comparison of two different methotrexate schedules, due to differences in doses of pegaspargase, 6-MP, and vincristine between arms, as well as differences in the timing of cranial radiation therapy.
Of note, patients randomized to escalated methotrexate had two additional doses of pegaspargase. As a result, enhanced asparagine depletion in that arm may have also prevented relapse events, the investigators said.
Differences in adherence could also have played a role, as the cost and time burden of the escalated approach are “substantially less” than the high-dose approach, they added.
The AALL0434 trial also included a second randomization to an addition of five, 6-day cycles of nelarabine versus no nelarabine. Results of that randomization, reported earlier this year, showed that nelarabine improved disease-free survival, including afor patients receiving both nelarabine and escalating-dose methotrexate.
The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and by St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Dr. Winter reported relationships with Amgen and Jazz Pharmaceuticals. Study coauthors reported relationships with Novo Nordisk, Tandem, Pfizer, Novartis, and TypeZero Technologies, among others.
SOURCE: Winter SS et al. J Clin Oncol. 2018 Aug 23: .