What is the role of CNS prophylaxis in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)?

Updated: Oct 26, 2020
  • Author: Karen Seiter, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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In contrast to patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) frequently have meningeal leukemia at the time of relapse. A minority of patients have meningeal disease at the time of initial diagnosis. As a result, central nervous system (CNS) prophylaxis with intrathecal chemotherapy is essential.

Cortes et al analyzed the prevalence of CNS leukemia in four consecutive clinical trials at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and found that that high-dose systemic chemotherapy reduces CNS relapse. However, early intrathecal chemotherapy is necessary to achieve the lowest risk of CNS relapse. [40]

CNS relapse rates were 31% for group 1 (standard chemotherapy, no CNS prophylaxis), 18% for group 2 (high-dose systemic chemotherapy, no CNS prophylaxis), 17% for group 3 (high-dose systemic chemotherapy, intrathecal chemotherapy for high-risk subjects after achieving remission), and 3% for group 4  (hyper-CVAD). [40] All subjects received intrathecal chemotherapy starting in induction. High-risk subjects received 16 intrathecal treatments, and low-risk subjects received four intrathecal treatments.

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