High-dose therapy and allogeneic matched sibling bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is considered to be the treatment of choice for children with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), or for children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in first remission. However, the rate of bone marrow relapse after transplant for either of these diseases remains high. In this study, we assessed the efficacy and toxicity of high-dose cytosine arabinoside and total body irradiation (TBI) followed by allogeneic BMT, for children with acute leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Sixty-five pediatric patients underwent allogeneic related (n = 57) or unrelated (n = 8) BMT. Twenty-seven were transplanted for ALL in second remission (CR2), and 16 for AML in first remission (CR1). The other 22 were high risk patients: six were transplanted for ALL in third remission (CR3), two for AML in CR2, two for myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and 12 for acute leukemia in relapse. Patients were prepared with cytosine arabinoside 3000 mg/m2 per dose twice daily for 6 days followed by 1200 cGy TBI as 200 cGy fractions twice daily for 3 days. Minimum follow-up is 21 months. Five-year event-free survival (EFS) and the actuarial relapse rate is 59 and 14% for patients with ALL in second remission, and 38 and 14% for patients with AML in first remission. Twelve patients have relapsed (three are alive in remission after testicular or marrow relapse) and 28 have died of other causes. Acute GVHD with or without infection was the cause of death in 11 patients. Ten of the 11 patients who died of acute GVHD were considered at 'high risk' for GVHD (inadequate GVHD prophylaxis, or mismatched family donor or a matched unrelated donor). Toxicities in the immediate post-BMT period included diarrhea, oropharyngeal mucositis and conjunctivitis. Significant late toxicities included short stature, avascular necrosis of bone, and poor school performance (most often in patients who had received prior cranial irradiation). Our conclusions are that high-dose Ara-C and TBI followed by allogeneic bone marrow transplantation is effective therapy for children in second complete remission of their acute leukemia. However, significant late toxicities occur, and it is clear that more effective, less toxic therapies are necessary for these patients.
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia
- Acute nonlymphocytic leukemia
- Cytosine arabinoside
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