, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 180-187

Treatment of Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia with imatinib in combination with chemotherapy

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Abstract

The presence of the Philadelphia chromosome (Ph) is associated with a very poor prognosis in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Although hematologic complete remission (CR) is achieved in 50% to 80% of adult patients by intensive chemotherapy in multicenter studies, long-term outcome is dismal, with overall survival of approximately 10%. Currently, allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-SCT) is thought to be the only curative therapeutic modality for this leukemia in adults, but the long-term survival rates are about 40% or less, far from satisfactory. Imatinib mesylate, a recently introduced specific tyrosine kinase inhibitor of BCR-ABL, in combination with chemotherapy, resulted in more than 90% hematologic CR in adult Ph-positive ALL, including molecular CR in more than 50% of patients. The higher CR rate and less frequent relapse gave more patients a chance to receive SCT. Patients who did not qualify for allo-SCT because of the lack of a suitable donor, advanced age, or underlying medical conditions apparently showed better survival than historical control patients treated with chemotherapy alone. Although longer follow-up is required to determine the effect on survival, imatinib in combination with chemotherapy clearly has a major potential to improve the treatment of Ph-positive ALL and may cure a substantial proportion of patients without SCT.