From the Journals

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia can be successfully treated in the frail elderly



A treatment schedule of very attenuated chemotherapy using standard drugs is feasible and effective in frail and elderly patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), according to a prospective study published in Clinical Lymphoma, Myeloma & Leukemia.

This image shows a Wright's stained bone marrow aspirate smear from a patient with precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. VashiDonsk/Creative Commons/CC ASA 3.0

This image shows a Wright's stained bone marrow aspirate smear from a patient with precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

The study comprised 67 previously untreated patients with B- or T-lineage Philadelphia chromosome–negative ALL from 30 Spanish hospitals who were enrolled in the prospective, multicenter ALL-07FRAIL trial (NCT01358201) from the Spanish PETHEMA (Programa Español de Tratamientos en Hematologia) group from January 2008 to October 2019.

The median patient age in this analysis was 67 years and 51 patients (76%) were older than 70 years. The median Charlson Comorbidity Index was 5, with the main comorbidities being cardiovascular (47 patients), other neoplasia (24), diabetes (17), and very advanced age (>80 years; 12).

The attenuated treatment regimen consisted of a prephase with dexamethasone and intrathecal therapy with methotrexate was given for a maximum of 1 week. Then weekly induction therapy consisted of weekly vincristine (capped at 1 mg/week) and daily dexamethasone with a progressively decreasing dose along 4 weeks, as well as two additional doses of intrathecal methotrexate.

Those patients who achieved complete remission received maintenance therapy with mercaptopurine and methotrexate to complete 2 years of treatment. In addition, reinduction pulses with vincristine and dexamethasone were given every 3 months during the first year, according to Josep-Maria Ribera, MD, of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Badalona, Spain and colleagues on behalf of the PETHEMA group of the Spanish Society of Hematology.

The complete remission rate was 54% (36/67 patients). The median disease-free survival and overall survival were 6.9 months and 7.6 months, respectively.

Of the 32 patients who initiated maintenance therapy, 5 patients died of infection (2), hemorrhage (2), and acute cognitive impairment (1), and 23 relapsed, with a cumulative incidence of relapse of 74% and a median time to relapse of 12.3 months.

The most frequent toxic events reported were hematologic (neutropenia 77% and thrombocytopenia 54%, of grade III-IV in all cases) followed by infections, metabolic (mainly hyperglycemia), and neurologic, according to the researchers.

“The lack of similar trials specifically directed to this frail population is one of the major strengths of this study, and we consider that this minimal chemotherapy approach could be used as a backbone for addition of immuno/targeted therapy in this subset of infirm patients,” the researchers concluded.

The study was supported by the CERCA Program/Generalitat de Catalunya and the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute. The authors reported having no disclosures.

SOURCE: Ribera J-M et al. Clin Lymphoma Myeloma Leuk. 2020 Apr 5. doi: 10.1016/j.clml.2020.03.011.

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