BACKGROUND: Acute promyelocytic leukaemia is a chemotherapy-sensitive subgroup of acute myeloid leukaemia characterised by the presence of the PML-RARA fusion transcript. The present standard of care, chemotherapy and all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), results in a high proportion of patients being cured. In this study, we compare a chemotherapy-free ATRA and arsenic trioxide treatment regimen with the standard chemotherapy-based regimen (ATRA and idarubicin) in both high-risk and low-risk patients with acute promyelocytic leukaemia.
METHODS: In the randomised, controlled, multicentre, AML17 trial, eligible patients (aged ≥16 years) with acute promyelocytic leukaemia, confirmed by the presence of the PML-RARA transcript and without significant cardiac or pulmonary comorbidities or active malignancy, and who were not pregnant or breastfeeding, were enrolled from 81 UK hospitals and randomised 1:1 to receive treatment with ATRA and arsenic trioxide or ATRA and idarubicin. ATRA was given to participants in both groups in a daily divided oral dose of 45 mg/m(2) until remission, or until day 60, and then in a 2 weeks on-2 weeks off schedule. In the ATRA and idarubicin group, idarubicin was given intravenously at 12 mg/m(2) on days 2, 4, 6, and 8 of course 1, and then at 5 mg/m(2) on days 1-4 of course 2; mitoxantrone at 10 mg/m(2) on days 1-4 of course 3, and idarubicin at 12 mg/m(2) on day 1 of the final (fourth) course. In the ATRA and arsenic trioxide group, arsenic trioxide was given intravenously at 0·3 mg/kg on days 1-5 of each course, and at 0·25 mg/kg twice weekly in weeks 2-8 of course 1 and weeks 2-4 of courses 2-5. High-risk patients (those presenting with a white blood cell count >10 × 10(9) cells per L) could receive an initial dose of the immunoconjugate gemtuzumab ozogamicin (6 mg/m(2) intravenously). Neither maintenance treatment nor CNS prophylaxis was given to patients in either group. All patients were monitored by real-time quantitative PCR. Allocation was by central computer minimisation, stratified by age, performance status, and de-novo versus secondary disease. The primary endpoint was quality of life on the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) QLQ-C30 global health status. All analyses are by intention to treat. This trial is registered with the ISRCTN registry, number ISRCTN55675535.
FINDINGS: Between May 8, 2009, and Oct 3, 2013, 235 patients were enrolled and randomly assigned to ATRA and idarubicin (n=119) or ATRA and arsenic trioxide (n=116). Participants had a median age of 47 years (range 16-77; IQR 33-58) and included 57 high-risk patients. Quality of life did not differ significantly between the treatment groups (EORTC QLQ-C30 global functioning effect size 2·17 [95% CI -2·79 to 7·12; p=0·39]). Overall, 57 patients in the ATRA and idarubicin group and 40 patients in the ATRA and arsenic trioxide group reported grade 3-4 toxicities. After course 1 of treatment, grade 3-4 alopecia was reported in 23 (23%) of 98 patients in the ATRA and idarubicin group versus 5 (5%) of 95 in the ATRA and arsenic trioxide group, raised liver alanine transaminase in 11 (10%) of 108 versus 27 (25%) of 109, oral toxicity in 22 (19%) of 115 versus one (1%) of 109. After course 2 of treatment, grade 3-4 alopecia was reported in 25 (28%) of 89 patients in the ATRA and idarubicin group versus 2 (3%) of 77 in the ATRA and arsenic trioxide group; no other toxicities reached the 10% level. Patients in the ATRA and arsenic trioxide group had significantly less requirement for most aspects of supportive care than did those in the ATRA and idarubicin group.
INTERPRETATION: ATRA and arsenic trioxide is a feasible treatment in low-risk and high-risk patients with acute promyelocytic leukaemia, with a high cure rate and less relapse than, and survival not different to, ATRA and idarubicin, with a low incidence of liver toxicity. However, no improvement in quality of life was seen.