New Therapies Have Transformed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Care

Mark S. Lesney, PhD

August 27, 2021

The use of novel, chemotherapy-free regimens in Philadelphia chromosome–positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL) is poised to become the new standard of care, according to a review assessment by Nicholas Short, MD, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, and colleagues.

Since the introduction of highly potent BCR-ABL–mutation tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), Ph+ ALL in adults has been transformed from an historically poor prognosis disease to a relatively favorable–risk acute leukemia, according to their report published online in Clinical Lymphoma, Myeloma and Leukemia.

Short and colleagues reviewed the state of the art in Ph+ ALL care, comparing historically intensive with the more modern nonintensive treatments as part of the SOHO (Society of Hematologic Oncology) State of the Art Updates & Next Questions.

Treatment Comparisons

Ph+ ALL outcomes have dramatically improved in the past 20 years, first with the addition of BCR-ABL TKIs to chemotherapy backbones and, more recently, with the development of more potent later-generation TKIs and the use of chemotherapy-free regimens.

Since the introduction of TKIs, most studies have evaluated them in combination with intensive chemotherapy such as hyper-CVAD (hyperfractionated cyclophosphamide, vincristine, doxorubicin and dexamethasone alternating with high-dose methotrexate and cytarabine) or similar regimens, according to Short and colleagues. However, the role of intensive chemotherapy in treating patients with Ph+ ALL has been increasingly questioned with the development of more active, broader spectrum TKIs such as ponatinib and effective novel monoclonal antibody constructs such as blinatumomab.

In particular, encouraging early results have been observed with blinatumomab-based, chemotherapy-free regimens, challenging previous notions that all patients with Ph+ ALL should undergo allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) in first remission, according to Short and colleagues. These regimens are capable of achieving deep and durable remissions without need for transplant in the vast majority of patients, particularly when combined with ponatinib.

"Given the multiple recent advances in the management of Ph+ ALL, we can reasonably envision a future in which what was once one of the most aggressive forms of leukemia is now considered nearly universally curable without either need for either chemotherapy or HSCT," the authors concluded.

Disclosures for the authors were not reported in the review article.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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