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Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI]

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http://cancer.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment

General Information About Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Incidence and Mortality

Estimated new cases and deaths from chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in the United States in 2013:[1]

  • New cases: 5,920.
  • Deaths: 610.

CML is one of a group of diseases called the myeloproliferative disorders. Other related entities include the following:

  • Polycythemia vera.
  • Myelofibrosis.
  • Essential thrombocythemia.

(Refer to the PDQ summary on Chronic Myeloproliferative Disorders Treatment for more information.)

CML is a clonal disorder that is usually easily diagnosed because the leukemic cells of more than 95% of patients have a distinctive cytogenetic abnormality, the Philadelphia chromosome (Ph1).[2,3] The Ph1 results from a reciprocal translocation between the long arms of chromosomes 9 and 22 and is demonstrable in all hematopoietic precursors.[4] This translocation results in the transfer of the Abelson (ABL) on chromosome 9 oncogene to an area of chromosome 22 termed the breakpoint cluster region (BCR).[4] This, in turn, results in a fused BCR/ABL gene and in the production of an abnormal tyrosine kinase protein that causes the disordered myelopoiesis found in CML. Furthermore, these molecular techniques can now be used to supplement cytogenetic studies to detect the presence of the 9;22 translocation in patients without a visible Ph1 (Ph1-negative).

Ph1-negative CML is a poorly defined entity that is less clearly distinguished from other myeloproliferative syndromes. Patients with Ph1-negative CML generally have a poorer response to treatment and shorter survival than Ph1-positive patients.[5] Ph1-negative patients who have BCR/ABL gene rearrangement detectable by Southern blot analysis, however, have prognoses equivalent to Ph1-positive patients.[6,7] A small subset of patients have BCR/ABL detectable only by reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR), which is the most sensitive technique currently available. Patients with RT–PCR evidence of the BCR/ABL fusion gene appear clinically and prognostically identical to patients with a classic Ph1; however, patients who are BCR/ABL-negative by RT–PCR have a clinical course more consistent with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, which is a distinct clinical entity related to myelodysplastic syndrome.[6,8,9] Fluorescent in situ hybridization of the BCR/ABL translocation can be performed on the bone marrow aspirate or on the peripheral blood of patients with CML.[10]

At the time of diagnosis of patients with CML, splenomegaly is the most common finding on physical examination.[10] The spleen may be enormous, filling most of the abdomen and presenting a significant clinical problem, or the spleen may be only minimally enlarged. In about 10% of patients, the spleen is neither palpable nor enlarged on splenic scan.

The median age of patients with Ph1-positive CML is 67 years.[11] While the median survival used to be 4 to 6 years, with the advent of the new oral therapies, the median survival is expected to approach normal life expectancy for most patients, although it is still too soon to say this definitively.

References:

1. American Cancer Society.: Cancer Facts and Figures 2013. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2013. Available online. Last accessed March 13, 2013.
2. Kurzrock R, Kantarjian HM, Druker BJ, et al.: Philadelphia chromosome-positive leukemias: from basic mechanisms to molecular therapeutics. Ann Intern Med 138 (10): 819-30, 2003.
3. Goldman JM, Melo JV: Chronic myeloid leukemia--advances in biology and new approaches to treatment. N Engl J Med 349 (15): 1451-64, 2003.
4. Deininger MW, Goldman JM, Melo JV: The molecular biology of chronic myeloid leukemia. Blood 96 (10): 3343-56, 2000.
5. Onida F, Ball G, Kantarjian HM, et al.: Characteristics and outcome of patients with Philadelphia chromosome negative, bcr/abl negative chronic myelogenous leukemia. Cancer 95 (8): 1673-84, 2002.
6. Martiat P, Michaux JL, Rodhain J: Philadelphia-negative (Ph-) chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): comparison with Ph+ CML and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. The Groupe Français de Cytogénétique Hématologique. Blood 78 (1): 205-11, 1991.
7. Cortes JE, Talpaz M, Beran M, et al.: Philadelphia chromosome-negative chronic myelogenous leukemia with rearrangement of the breakpoint cluster region. Long-term follow-up results. Cancer 75 (2): 464-70, 1995.
8. Oscier DG: Atypical chronic myeloid leukaemia, a distinct clinical entity related to the myelodysplastic syndrome? Br J Haematol 92 (3): 582-6, 1996.
9. Kurzrock R, Bueso-Ramos CE, Kantarjian H, et al.: BCR rearrangement-negative chronic myelogenous leukemia revisited. J Clin Oncol 19 (11): 2915-26, 2001.
10. Sawyers CL: Chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 340 (17): 1330-40, 1999.
11. Lee SJ, Anasetti C, Horowitz MM, et al.: Initial therapy for chronic myelogenous leukemia: playing the odds. J Clin Oncol 16 (9): 2897-903, 1998.

Stage Information for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Bone marrow sampling is done to assess cellularity, fibrosis, and cytogenetics. The Philadelphia chromosome (Ph1) is usually more readily apparent in marrow metaphases than in peripheral blood metaphases; in some cases, it may be mashed and reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR) or fluorescent in situ hybridization analyses on blood or marrow aspirates may be necessary to demonstrate the 9;22 translocation.

Histopathologic examination of bone marrow aspirate demonstrates a shift in the myeloid series to immature forms that increase in number as patients progress to the blastic phase of the disease. The marrow is hypercellular, and differential counts of both marrow and blood show a spectrum of mature and immature granulocytes similar to that found in normal marrow. Increased numbers of eosinophils or basophils are often present, and sometimes monocytosis is seen. Increased megakaryocytes are often found in the marrow, and sometimes fragments of megakaryocytic nuclei are present in the blood, especially when the platelet count is very high. The percentage of lymphocytes is reduced in both the marrow and blood in comparison with normal subjects, and the myeloid/erythroid ratio in the marrow is usually greatly elevated. The leukocyte alkaline phosphatase enzyme is either absent or markedly reduced in the neutrophils of patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).[1]

Transition from the chronic phase to the accelerated phase and later the blastic phase may occur gradually over a period of 1 year or more, or it may appear abruptly (blast crisis). The annual rate of progression from chronic phase to blast crisis is 5% to 10% in the first 2 years and 20% in subsequent years.[2,3] Signs and symptoms commonly indicating such a change include the following:

  • Progressive leukocytosis.
  • Thrombocytosis or thrombocytopenia.
  • Anemia. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Fatigue for more information on anemia.)
  • Increasing and painful splenomegaly or hepatomegaly.
  • Fever. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Fever, Sweats, and Hot Flashes for more information.)
  • Bone pain. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Pain for more information.)
  • Development of destructive bone lesions.
  • Thrombotic or bleeding complications.

In the accelerated phase, differentiated cells persist, though they often show increasing morphologic abnormalities, and increasing anemia and thrombocytopenia and marrow fibrosis are apparent.[1]

Studies have suggested that certain presenting features have prognostic significance. The following are predictive of a shorter chronic phase:

  • Increased splenomegaly.
  • Older age.
  • Male gender.
  • Elevated serum lactate dehydrogenase.
  • Cytogenetic abnormalities in addition to the Ph1.
  • A higher proportion of marrow or peripheral blood blasts.
  • Basophilia.
  • Eosinophilia.
  • Thrombocytosis.
  • Anemia.

Predictive models using multivariate analysis have been derived.[2,3,4,5,6,7]

Chronic-phase CML

Chronic-phase CML is characterized by bone marrow and cytogenetic findings as described above with less than 10% blasts and promyelocytes in the peripheral blood and bone marrow.[8]

Accelerated-phase CML

Accelerated-phase CML is characterized by 10% to 19% blasts in either the peripheral blood or bone marrow.[8]

Blastic-phase CML

Blastic-phase CML is characterized by 20% or more blasts in the peripheral blood or bone marrow.

When 20% or more blasts are present in the face of fever, malaise, and progressive splenomegaly, the patient has entered blast crisis.[8]

Relapsing CML

Relapsed CML is characterized by any evidence of progression of disease from a stable remission. This may include the following:

  • Increasing myeloid or blast cells in the peripheral blood or bone marrow.
  • Cytogenetic positivity when previously cytogenetic-negative.
  • FISH positivity for BCR/ABL (breakpoint cluster region/Abelson) translocation when previously FISH-negative.

Detection of the BCR/ABL translocation by RT–PCR during prolonged remissions does not constitute relapse on its own. However, exponential drops in quantitative RT–PCR measurements for 3 to 12 months correlates with the degree of cytogenetic response, just as exponential rises may be associated with quantitative RT–PCR measurements that are closely connected with clinical relapse.[9]

References:

1. Sawyers CL: Chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 340 (17): 1330-40, 1999.
2. Sokal JE, Cox EB, Baccarani M, et al.: Prognostic discrimination in "good-risk" chronic granulocytic leukemia. Blood 63 (4): 789-99, 1984.
3. Sokal JE, Baccarani M, Russo D, et al.: Staging and prognosis in chronic myelogenous leukemia. Semin Hematol 25 (1): 49-61, 1988.
4. Kantarjian HM, Smith TL, McCredie KB, et al.: Chronic myelogenous leukemia: a multivariate analysis of the associations of patient characteristics and therapy with survival. Blood 66 (6): 1326-35, 1985.
5. Sacchi S, Kantarjian HM, Smith TL, et al.: Early treatment decisions with interferon-alfa therapy in early chronic-phase chronic myelogenous leukemia. J Clin Oncol 16 (3): 882-9, 1998.
6. Hasford J, Pfirrmann M, Hehlmann R, et al.: A new prognostic score for survival of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia treated with interferon alfa. Writing Committee for the Collaborative CML Prognostic Factors Project Group. J Natl Cancer Inst 90 (11): 850-8, 1998.
7. Kvasnicka HM, Thiele J, Schmitt-Graeff A, et al.: Bone marrow features improve prognostic efficiency in multivariate risk classification of chronic-phase Ph(1+) chronic myelogenous leukemia: a multicenter trial. J Clin Oncol 19 (12): 2994-3009, 2001.
8. Cortes JE, Talpaz M, O'Brien S, et al.: Staging of chronic myeloid leukemia in the imatinib era: an evaluation of the World Health Organization proposal. Cancer 106 (6): 1306-15, 2006.
9. Martinelli G, Iacobucci I, Rosti G, et al.: Prediction of response to imatinib by prospective quantitation of BCR-ABL transcript in late chronic phase chronic myeloid leukemia patients. Ann Oncol 17 (3): 495-502, 2006.

Treatment Option Overview

Treatment of patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is usually initiated when the diagnosis is established, which is done by the presence of an elevated white blood cell (WBC) count, splenomegaly, thrombocytosis, and identification of the BCR/ABL (breakpoint cluster region/Abelson) translocation.[1] The optimal frontline treatment for patients with chronic-phase CML is the subject of active clinical evaluation but involves specific inhibitors of the BCR/ABL tyrosine kinase.

In a randomized trial comparing imatinib mesylate with interferon plus cytarabine, with 5 years' median follow-up, imatinib mesylate induced complete cytogenetic responses in more than 80% of newly diagnosed patients; in addition, the annual rate of progression to accelerated phase or blast crisis dropped from 2% to less than 1% in the fourth year on the imatinib arm.[2][Level of evidence: 1iiDiii] However, most of these continually responding patients still showed detectable evidence of the BCR/ABL translocation by the most sensitive measurement of reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR).[3,4,5] The clinical implication of this finding after 10 years or more is unknown, but these results have changed clinical practice. Although evidence-based survival advantages are unavailable because of crossover in randomized trials, the overall survival rate for all patients at 5 years is 89%, with fewer than 50% of all deaths (4.5%) caused by CML.[6]

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors with greater potency and selectivity for BCR/ABL than imatinib have been evaluated in newly diagnosed patients with CML. In a randomized, prospective study of 846 patients comparing nilotinib with imatinib, the rate of major molecular response at 12 months was 43% and 44% for 2-dose schedules of nilotinib and 22% for imatinib (P < .001 for both comparisons). The rate of complete cytogenetic response at 12 months was 80% and 78% for 2-dose schedules of nilotinib and 65% for imatinib (P < .001 for both comparisons).[7][Level of evidence: 1iiDiv] Progression to accelerated phase or blast crisis occurred in 11 patients on imatinib (4%) but only occurred in 2 patients (<1%, P = . 01) and 1 patient (<1%, P = .004) for the patients on 2-dose schedules of nilotinib.[7]

Similarly, in a randomized, prospective study of 519 patients comparing dasatinib with imatinib, the rate of major molecular response at 12 months was 46% for dasatinib and 28% for imatinib (P < .0001). The rate of complete cytogenetic response at 12 months was 77% for dasatinib and 66% for imatinib (P = .007).[8][Level of evidence: 1iiDiv] Progression to accelerated-phase CML or blast crisis occurred in nine patients (3.5%) on imatinib and in five patients (1.9%) on dasatinib (not statistically different).

Although one of these two studies showed statistically significant decreased rates of progression to accelerated or blastic phase, which may ultimately translate into improved survival, the follow-up period with nilotinib and dasatinib has not been long enough to detect and confirm this prolonged survival with these agents. The preferred initial treatment for newly diagnosed patients with chronic-phase CML could be any of these specific inhibitors of the BCR/ABL tyrosine kinase.[9]

The only consistently successful curative treatment of CML beyond 10 years' follow-up has been allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) or stem cell transplantation (SCT).[10] Long-term data beyond 10 years of therapy are available, and most long-term survivors show no evidence of the BCR/ABL translocation by any available test (e.g., cytogenetics, RT–PCR, or fluorescent in situ hybridization [FISH]). Many patients, however, are not eligible for this approach because of age, comorbid conditions, or lack of a suitable donor. In addition, substantial morbidity and mortality result from allogeneic BMT or SCT; a 15% to 30% treatment-related mortality can be expected, depending on whether a donor is related and on the presence of mismatched antigens.[10]

Long-term data are also available for patients treated with interferon alpha.[11,12,13] Approximately 10% to 20% of these patients have a complete cytogenetic response with no evidence of BCR/ABL translocation by any available test, and the majority of these patients are disease free beyond 10 years.[10] Maintenance of therapy with interferon is required, however, and some patients experience side effects that preclude continued treatment.

Newly diagnosed patients with very high levels of circulating leukocytes (WBC >100,000/mm3) require immediate therapy with imatinib mesylate to avoid cerebrovascular events or death from leukostasis. Leukophoresis and plateletpheresis are sometimes required for an even more emergent reduction of counts.

References:

1. Sawyers CL: Chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 340 (17): 1330-40, 1999.
2. Druker BJ, Guilhot F, O'Brien SG, et al.: Five-year follow-up of patients receiving imatinib for chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 355 (23): 2408-17, 2006.
3. Bhatia R, Holtz M, Niu N, et al.: Persistence of malignant hematopoietic progenitors in chronic myelogenous leukemia patients in complete cytogenetic remission following imatinib mesylate treatment. Blood 101 (12): 4701-7, 2003.
4. Hughes TP, Kaeda J, Branford S, et al.: Frequency of major molecular responses to imatinib or interferon alfa plus cytarabine in newly diagnosed chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 349 (15): 1423-32, 2003.
5. Rosti G, Martinelli G, Bassi S, et al.: Molecular response to imatinib in late chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia. Blood 103 (6): 2284-90, 2004.
6. Kantarjian HM, Talpaz M, O'Brien S, et al.: Survival benefit with imatinib mesylate versus interferon-alpha-based regimens in newly diagnosed chronic-phase chronic myelogenous leukemia. Blood 108 (6): 1835-40, 2006.
7. Saglio G, Kim DW, Issaragrisil S, et al.: Nilotinib versus imatinib for newly diagnosed chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 362 (24): 2251-9, 2010.
8. Kantarjian H, Shah NP, Hochhaus A, et al.: Dasatinib versus imatinib in newly diagnosed chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 362 (24): 2260-70, 2010.
9. Wei G, Rafiyath S, Liu D: First-line treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia: dasatinib, nilotinib, or imatinib. J Hematol Oncol 3: 47, 2010.
10. Lee SJ, Anasetti C, Horowitz MM, et al.: Initial therapy for chronic myelogenous leukemia: playing the odds. J Clin Oncol 16 (9): 2897-903, 1998.
11. Ozer H, George SL, Schiffer CA, et al.: Prolonged subcutaneous administration of recombinant alpha 2b interferon in patients with previously untreated Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic-phase chronic myelogenous leukemia: effect on remission duration and survival: Cancer and Leukemia Group B study 8583. Blood 82 (10): 2975-84, 1993.
12. Kantarjian HM, Smith TL, O'Brien S, et al.: Prolonged survival in chronic myelogenous leukemia after cytogenetic response to interferon-alpha therapy. The Leukemia Service. Ann Intern Med 122 (4): 254-61, 1995.
13. Long-term follow-up of the Italian trial of interferon-alpha versus conventional chemotherapy in chronic myeloid leukemia. The Italian Cooperative Study Group on Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Blood 92 (5): 1541-8, 1998.

Chronic-Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment Options for Chronic-Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

1. Targeted therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
2. High-dose therapy followed by allogeneic bone marrow transplant (BMT) or stem cell transplantation (SCT).
3. Biologic therapy with or without chemotherapy.
4. Hydroxyurea.
5. Splenectomy may be required and useful in patients having hematologic problems and physical discomfort from a massive spleen.

Targeted therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors

A trial randomly assigning 1,106 previously untreated patients to imatinib mesylate or to interferon plus cytarabine documented a 76% complete cytogenetic response rate with imatinib mesylate versus 14% for interferon plus cytarabine at a median follow-up of 19 months.[1,2][Level of evidence: 1iiDiii] At 18 months, 96.7% of the imatinib group had avoided progression to accelerated-phase CML or blast crisis compared with 91.5% of the interferon plus cytarabine group (P < .001). Because 90% of the combination group had switched to imatinib by 18 months (mostly because of intolerance of side effects), a survival difference may never be observed. By the 5-year median follow-up of this trial, imatinib mesylate induced complete cytogenetic response in more than 80% of the participants, with the annual rate of progression to accelerated-phase CML or blast crisis dropping from 2% in the first year to less than 1% in the fourth year.[2] In addition, the overall survival (OS) rate for all patients at 5 years is 89%, with fewer than 50% of all deaths (4.5%) caused by CML. More than 90% of completely responding patients still show detectable evidence of the BCR/ABL translocation, usually by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR) or by fluorescence in situ hybridization of progenitor cell cultures.[3,4,5] The clinical implication of this finding after 10 years or more is unknown, but these results have changed clinical practice. Poor compliance is the predominant reason for inadequate molecular response to imatinib.[6]

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors with greater potency and selectivity for BCR/ABL than imatinib have been evaluated in newly diagnosed patients with CML. In a randomized, prospective study of 846 patients comparing nilotinib with imatinib, the rate of major molecular response at 12 months was 43% and 44% for 2-dose schedules of nilotinib and 22% for imatinib (P < .001 for both comparisons). The rate of complete cytogenetic response at 12 months was 80% and 78% for 2-dose schedules of nilotinib and 65% for imatinib (P < .001 for both comparisons).[7][Level of evidence: 1iiDiv] Progression to accelerated-phase CML or blast crisis occurred in 11 patients on imatinib (4%) but only occurred in 2 patients (<1%, P = .01) and 1 patient (<1%, P = .004) for the patients on two-dose schedules of nilotinib.[7]

Similarly, in a randomized, prospective study of 519 patients comparing dasatinib with imatinib, the rate of major molecular response at 12 months was 46% for dasatinib and 28% for imatinib (P < .0001). The rate of complete cytogenetic response at 12 months was 77% for dasatinib and 66% for imatinib (P = .007).[8][Level of evidence: 1iiDiv] Progression to accelerated-phase CML or blast crisis occurred in nine patients (3.5%) on imatinib and in five patients (1.9%) on dasatinib (not statistically different).

Although one of these two studies showed statistically significant decreased rates of progression to accelerated- or blastic-phase CML, which may ultimately translate into improved survival, the follow-up period with nilotinib and dasatinib has not been long enough to detect and confirm this prolonged survival with these agents. The preferred initial treatment for newly diagnosed patients with chronic-phase CML could be any of these specific inhibitors of the BCR/ABL tyrosine kinase.[9]

Higher doses of imatinib mesylate, alternative tyrosine kinase inhibitors (such as dasatinib or nilotinib, and allogeneic SCT) are implemented for suboptimal response or progression and are under clinical evaluation as frontline approaches.[10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18] Currently in practice, dose escalation of imatinib is usually the first step taken for suboptimal response, but clinical trials are required to establish the relative efficacy and sequencing of dose escalation, dasatinib, and nilotinib.[15,16] Two studies looked at dose escalation of imatinib in almost 200 previously untreated patients, most of whom were of intermediate Sokal risk; 63% to 73% achieved a major molecular response by 18 to 24 months and only three patients showed progression to advanced phase in these preliminary phase II results.[19,20][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv] Until randomized studies are performed, it is unclear whether the increased response with increased dosage will translate into longer durations of response or survival advantages.[17,21]

Among the many unanswered questions are the following:

  • Will responses on tyrosine kinase inhibitors be durable beyond 10 years, and can we ever stop treatment with them? In a prospective, nonrandomized study, 100 patients in complete molecular remission stopped imatinib after more than 2 years of therapy; by 1 year, 61% of patients relapsed and all responded to the reintroduction of imatinib.[22] Longer follow-up is required to see if some patients maintain a long-term remission after discontinuation of therapy.
  • Should the newer tyrosine kinase inhibitors dasatinib or nilotinib replace imatinib as frontline therapy?
  • Does time-to-response matter if a good response is obtained eventually?
  • Does a good response in a high-risk patient overcome the adverse prognosis of the high-risk features?
  • What is the role of allogeneic BMT or SCT for younger, eligible patients and when should it be offered?[13,23,24]
  • Should other active agents be added to therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors?[25]

All of these issues have led to an active reappraisal of recommendations for optimal frontline therapy for chronic-phase CML.

High-dose therapy followed by allogeneic BMT or SCT

The only consistently successful curative treatment of CML has been high-dose therapy followed by allogeneic BMT or SCT.[26] Patients younger than 60 years with an identical twin or with HLA-identical siblings can be considered for BMT early in the chronic phase. Although the procedure is associated with considerable acute morbidity and mortality, 50% to 70% of patients transplanted in the chronic phase survive 2 to 3 years, and the results are better in younger patients, especially those younger than 20 years. The results of patients transplanted in the accelerated and blastic phases of the disease are progressively worse.[27,28] Most transplant series suggest improved survival when the procedure is performed within 1 year of diagnosis.[29,30,31][Level of evidence: 3iiiA] The data supporting early transplant, however, have never been confirmed in controlled trials. In a randomized, clinical trial, disease-free survival and OS were comparable when allogeneic transplantation followed preparative therapy with cyclophosphamide and total-body irradiation (TBI) or busulfan and cyclophosphamide without TBI. The latter regimen was associated with less graft-versus-host disease and fewer fevers, hospitalizations, and hospital days.[32][Level of evidence: 1iiA] Reduced-intensity conditioning allogeneic SCT is under evaluation in first or second remissions.[33,34]

About 20% of otherwise eligible CML patients lack a suitably matched sibling donor.[35] HLA-matched unrelated donors or donors mismatched at one-HLA antigen can be found for about 50% of eligible participants through the National Marrow Donor Program.[35] A retrospective review of 2,444 patients who received myeloablative allogeneic SCT showed OS at 15 years of 88% (95% confidence interval [CI], 86%–90%) for sibling-matched transplant and of 87% (95% CI, 83%–90%) for unrelated donor transplant.[36] The cumulative incidences of relapse were 8% (95% CI, 7%–10%) for sibling-matched transplant and 2% (95% CI, 1%– 4%) for unrelated donor transplant.[36]

Although the majority of relapses occur within 5 years of transplantation, relapses have occurred for as long as 15 years following BMT.[37] In a molecular analysis of 243 patients who underwent allogeneic BMT over a 20-year interval, only 15% had no detectable BCR/ABL transcript by PCR analysis.[38] The risk of relapse appears to be less in patients transplanted early in disease and in patients who develop chronic graft-versus-host disease.[28,39]

With the advent of imatinib, dasatinib, and nilotinib, the timing and sequence of allogeneic BMT or SCT has been cast in doubt.[24] Allogeneic SCT is the preferred choice for patients presenting with accelerated-phase or blast-phase disease, for patients with a T3151 mutation (resistant to currently available tyrosine kinase inhibitors), and for patients with complete intolerance to the pharmacologic options.[40]

In a prospective trial of 354 patients aged younger than 60 years, 123 of 135 patients with a matched, related donor underwent early allogeneic SCT while the others received interferon-based therapy and imatinib at relapse; some also underwent a matched, unrelated-donor transplant in remission.[41] With a 9-year median follow-up, survival still favored the drug treatment arm (P = .049), but most of the benefit was early as a result of transplant-related mortality, with the survival curves converging by 8 years.[41][Level of evidence: 2A] Among the many unanswered questions are the following:

  • Should younger eligible patients move quickly toward allogeneic SCT after induction failure by imatinib mesylate?
  • Does the substantial toxicity and mortality of allogeneic transplantation render its early use obsolete?

Clinical trials and long-term results from ongoing trials will be required before these controversies are resolved.

Biologic therapy with or without chemotherapy

Long-term data are available for initial treatment with interferon alpha. A meta-analysis of seven trials that randomly assigned patients to receive interferon or conventional chemotherapy (hydroxyurea or busulfan) demonstrated a 30% reduction in the annual death rate for patients who received interferon (P < .001).[42][Level of evidence: 1iiA] The annual death rate was reduced by 26% in the trials of interferon versus hydroxyurea (P = .001) and 36% in the trials of interferon versus busulfan (P = .007). Median survival was prolonged by 1 to 2 years; 5-year survival rate was 57% for patients treated with interferon and 42% for patients treated with chemotherapy (P < .001). Further analysis of the two trials, which included a three-way randomization between interferon, hydroxyurea, and busulfan, showed hydroxyurea to be superior to busulfan, decreasing the proportional odds of death by 24% (P = .02).[42] About 20% of the chronic-phase patients treated with interferon alpha have complete cytogenetic remissions with temporary disappearance of Philadelphia chromosome (Ph1)-positive cells in the marrow, and in about 10% of the patients these cytogenetic responses are quite long lasting.[43,44,45] These data have only been published in the context of a review article, rather than a peer-reviewed research manuscript.[45]

Long-term follow-up of the interferon-treated patients from a randomized trial comparing interferon with chemotherapy showed that the median survival had not been reached at 10 years for patients who had complete or major cytogenetic responses to interferon.[46] Seventy-four percent of patients with complete cytogenetic responses and 55% of patients with major cytogenetic responses were alive and had shown no disease progression at date of publication (median follow-up time was not provided). Using molecular methods of analysis, however, small numbers of Ph1-positive cells can still be detected in the majority of patients having long-term cytogenetic remissions, and longer follow-up will be required to ascertain whether the disease will recur.

Patients older than 60 years with chronic-phase CML have a hematologic and cytogenetic response rate and duration of cytogenetic response similar to that in younger patients; however, the incidence of complications is greater in elderly patients.[47] Interferon alpha has significant toxic effects that can result in dosage modification or discontinuation of therapy in many cases. A randomized, prospective trial of 407 patients compared two doses of interferon, 5 million units/m² daily versus 3 million units/m² daily; at a median follow-up of 53 months, no difference was seen in OS, progression-free survival, or number of major cytogenetic responses.[48][Level of evidence: 1iiA] As evidenced in the CLB-9013 study, common side effects included influenza-like syndrome, nausea, anorexia, weight loss, and neuropsychiatric symptoms, all of which were completely reversible with cessation of therapy.[49] (Refer to the PDQ summaries on Nausea and Vomiting and Nutrition for information on some of these side effects.) Immune-mediated complications, such as hyperthyroidism, hemolysis, and connective tissue diseases may occur rarely after long-term treatment.[50] Interferon alpha is quite costly, and daily subcutaneous injections can be troublesome. Pegylated interferon alpha is administered weekly; a randomized, noninferiority trial of 344 newly diagnosed CML patients could not rule out the possibility that pegylated interferon alpha may be slightly inferior to daily interferon alpha.[51][Level of evidence: 1iiDiv]

Patients whose disease is in cytogenetic remission should continue therapy for at least 2 to 3 years beyond remission, and perhaps indefinitely, as suggested by some investigators. After 1 year, patients with only a partial cytogenetic response should consider alternative therapy with imatinib mesylate or allogeneic BMT or SCT (if eligible). The French Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Study Group randomly assigned 721 patients to interferon and cytarabine versus interferon alone.[52][Level of evidence: 1iiA] Patients who received the combination had significantly more major cytogenetic responses (41% vs. 24%, P < .001) and improved 3-year survival (86% vs. 80%). Another trial by the Italian Cooperative Study Group on CML did not show a survival benefit for interferon plus cytarabine versus interferon alone.[53][Level of evidence: 1iiA] Both studies showed increased toxic effects for the combination versus interferon alone.[52,53] Interferon alpha is also effective for patients who have relapsed after allogeneic BMT.[54,55]

Hydroxyurea

Hydroxyurea is given daily by mouth (1–3 g per day as a single dose on an empty stomach). Hydroxyurea is superior to busulfan in the chronic phase of CML, with significantly longer median survival and significantly fewer severe adverse effects.[56] A dose of 40 mg/kg per day is often used initially and frequently results in a rapid reduction of the white blood cell (WBC) count. When the WBC count drops below 20,000 mm3, the hydroxyurea is often reduced and titrated to maintain a WBC count between 5,000 and 20,000. Hydroxyurea is currently used primarily to stabilize patients with hyperleukocytosis or as palliative therapy for patients who have not responded to other therapies.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with chronic phase chronic myelogenous leukemia. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

References:

1. O'Brien SG, Guilhot F, Larson RA, et al.: Imatinib compared with interferon and low-dose cytarabine for newly diagnosed chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 348 (11): 994-1004, 2003.
2. Druker BJ, Guilhot F, O'Brien SG, et al.: Five-year follow-up of patients receiving imatinib for chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 355 (23): 2408-17, 2006.
3. Bhatia R, Holtz M, Niu N, et al.: Persistence of malignant hematopoietic progenitors in chronic myelogenous leukemia patients in complete cytogenetic remission following imatinib mesylate treatment. Blood 101 (12): 4701-7, 2003.
4. Hughes TP, Kaeda J, Branford S, et al.: Frequency of major molecular responses to imatinib or interferon alfa plus cytarabine in newly diagnosed chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 349 (15): 1423-32, 2003.
5. Rosti G, Martinelli G, Bassi S, et al.: Molecular response to imatinib in late chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia. Blood 103 (6): 2284-90, 2004.
6. Marin D, Bazeos A, Mahon FX, et al.: Adherence is the critical factor for achieving molecular responses in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia who achieve complete cytogenetic responses on imatinib. J Clin Oncol 28 (14): 2381-8, 2010.
7. Saglio G, Kim DW, Issaragrisil S, et al.: Nilotinib versus imatinib for newly diagnosed chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 362 (24): 2251-9, 2010.
8. Kantarjian H, Shah NP, Hochhaus A, et al.: Dasatinib versus imatinib in newly diagnosed chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 362 (24): 2260-70, 2010.
9. Wei G, Rafiyath S, Liu D: First-line treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia: dasatinib, nilotinib, or imatinib. J Hematol Oncol 3: 47, 2010.
10. Jabbour E, Cortes J, Kantarjian HM, et al.: Allogeneic stem cell transplantation for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia and acute lymphocytic leukemia after Bcr-Abl kinase mutation-related imatinib failure. Blood 108 (4): 1421-3, 2006.
11. Cortes JE, Jones D, O'Brien S, et al.: Nilotinib as front-line treatment for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia in early chronic phase. J Clin Oncol 28 (3): 392-7, 2010.
12. Apperley JF, Cortes JE, Kim DW, et al.: Dasatinib in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia in accelerated phase after imatinib failure: the START a trial. J Clin Oncol 27 (21): 3472-9, 2009.
13. Cortes JE, Jones D, O'Brien S, et al.: Results of dasatinib therapy in patients with early chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia. J Clin Oncol 28 (3): 398-404, 2010.
14. Kantarjian HM, Larson RA, Guilhot F, et al.: Efficacy of imatinib dose escalation in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia in chronic phase. Cancer 115 (3): 551-60, 2009.
15. Jabbour E, Cortes JE, Kantarjian HM: Suboptimal response to or failure of imatinib treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia: what is the optimal strategy? Mayo Clin Proc 84 (2): 161-9, 2009.
16. Jabbour E, Kantarjian HM, Jones D, et al.: Imatinib mesylate dose escalation is associated with durable responses in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia after cytogenetic failure on standard-dose imatinib therapy. Blood 113 (10): 2154-60, 2009.
17. Cortes JE, Baccarani M, Guilhot F, et al.: Phase III, randomized, open-label study of daily imatinib mesylate 400 mg versus 800 mg in patients with newly diagnosed, previously untreated chronic myeloid leukemia in chronic phase using molecular end points: tyrosine kinase inhibitor optimization and selectivity study. J Clin Oncol 28 (3): 424-30, 2010.
18. Rosti G, Palandri F, Castagnetti F, et al.: Nilotinib for the frontline treatment of Ph(+) chronic myeloid leukemia. Blood 114 (24): 4933-8, 2009.
19. Castagnetti F, Palandri F, Amabile M, et al.: Results of high-dose imatinib mesylate in intermediate Sokal risk chronic myeloid leukemia patients in early chronic phase: a phase 2 trial of the GIMEMA CML Working Party. Blood 113 (15): 3428-34, 2009.
20. Cortes JE, Kantarjian HM, Goldberg SL, et al.: High-dose imatinib in newly diagnosed chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia: high rates of rapid cytogenetic and molecular responses. J Clin Oncol 27 (28): 4754-9, 2009.
21. Hehlmann R, Lauseker M, Jung-Munkwitz S, et al.: Tolerability-adapted imatinib 800 mg/d versus 400 mg/d versus 400 mg/d plus interferon-α in newly diagnosed chronic myeloid leukemia. J Clin Oncol 29 (12): 1634-42, 2011.
22. Mahon FX, Réa D, Guilhot J, et al.: Discontinuation of imatinib in patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia who have maintained complete molecular remission for at least 2 years: the prospective, multicentre Stop Imatinib (STIM) trial. Lancet Oncol 11 (11): 1029-35, 2010.
23. Peggs K, Mackinnon S: Imatinib mesylate--the new gold standard for treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 348 (11): 1048-50, 2003.
24. Saussele S, Lauseker M, Gratwohl A, et al.: Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo SCT) for chronic myeloid leukemia in the imatinib era: evaluation of its impact within a subgroup of the randomized German CML Study IV. Blood 115 (10): 1880-5, 2010.
25. Preudhomme C, Guilhot J, Nicolini FE, et al.: Imatinib plus peginterferon alfa-2a in chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 363 (26): 2511-21, 2010.
26. Gratwohl A, Hermans J: Allogeneic bone marrow transplantation for chronic myeloid leukemia. Working Party Chronic Leukemia of the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT). Bone Marrow Transplant 17 (Suppl 3): S7-9, 1996.
27. Wagner JE, Zahurak M, Piantadosi S, et al.: Bone marrow transplantation of chronic myelogenous leukemia in chronic phase: evaluation of risks and benefits. J Clin Oncol 10 (5): 779-89, 1992.
28. Enright H, Davies SM, DeFor T, et al.: Relapse after non-T-cell-depleted allogeneic bone marrow transplantation for chronic myelogenous leukemia: early transplantation, use of an unrelated donor, and chronic graft-versus-host disease are protective. Blood 88 (2): 714-20, 1996.
29. Goldman JM, Szydlo R, Horowitz MM, et al.: Choice of pretransplant treatment and timing of transplants for chronic myelogenous leukemia in chronic phase. Blood 82 (7): 2235-8, 1993.
30. Clift RA, Appelbaum FR, Thomas ED: Treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia by marrow transplantation. Blood 82 (7): 1954-6, 1993.
31. Hansen JA, Gooley TA, Martin PJ, et al.: Bone marrow transplants from unrelated donors for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 338 (14): 962-8, 1998.
32. Clift RA, Buckner CD, Thomas ED, et al.: Marrow transplantation for chronic myeloid leukemia: a randomized study comparing cyclophosphamide and total body irradiation with busulfan and cyclophosphamide. Blood 84 (6): 2036-43, 1994.
33. Crawley C, Szydlo R, Lalancette M, et al.: Outcomes of reduced-intensity transplantation for chronic myeloid leukemia: an analysis of prognostic factors from the Chronic Leukemia Working Party of the EBMT. Blood 106 (9): 2969-76, 2005.
34. Bacher U, Klyuchnikov E, Zabelina T, et al.: The changing scene of allogeneic stem cell transplantation for chronic myeloid leukemia--a report from the German Registry covering the period from 1998 to 2004. Ann Hematol 88 (12): 1237-47, 2009.
35. Lee SJ, Anasetti C, Horowitz MM, et al.: Initial therapy for chronic myelogenous leukemia: playing the odds. J Clin Oncol 16 (9): 2897-903, 1998.
36. Goldman JM, Majhail NS, Klein JP, et al.: Relapse and late mortality in 5-year survivors of myeloablative allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation for chronic myeloid leukemia in first chronic phase. J Clin Oncol 28 (11): 1888-95, 2010.
37. Maziarz R: Transplantation for CML: lifelong PCR monitoring? Blood 107 (10): 3820, 2006.
38. Kaeda J, O'Shea D, Szydlo RM, et al.: Serial measurement of BCR-ABL transcripts in the peripheral blood after allogeneic stem cell transplantation for chronic myeloid leukemia: an attempt to define patients who may not require further therapy. Blood 107 (10): 4171-6, 2006.
39. Pichert G, Roy DC, Gonin R, et al.: Distinct patterns of minimal residual disease associated with graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation for chronic myelogenous leukemia. J Clin Oncol 13 (7): 1704-13, 1995.
40. O'Brien S, Berman E, Moore JO, et al.: NCCN Task Force report: tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy selection in the management of patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia. J Natl Compr Canc Netw 9 (Suppl 2): S1-25, 2011.
41. Hehlmann R, Berger U, Pfirrmann M, et al.: Drug treatment is superior to allografting as first-line therapy in chronic myeloid leukemia. Blood 109 (11): 4686-92, 2007.
42. Interferon alfa versus chemotherapy for chronic myeloid leukemia: a meta-analysis of seven randomized trials: Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Trialists' Collaborative Group. J Natl Cancer Inst 89 (21): 1616-20, 1997.
43. Ozer H, George SL, Schiffer CA, et al.: Prolonged subcutaneous administration of recombinant alpha 2b interferon in patients with previously untreated Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic-phase chronic myelogenous leukemia: effect on remission duration and survival: Cancer and Leukemia Group B study 8583. Blood 82 (10): 2975-84, 1993.
44. Kantarjian HM, Smith TL, O'Brien S, et al.: Prolonged survival in chronic myelogenous leukemia after cytogenetic response to interferon-alpha therapy. The Leukemia Service. Ann Intern Med 122 (4): 254-61, 1995.
45. Kantarjian HM, Deisseroth A, Kurzrock R, et al.: Chronic myelogenous leukemia: a concise update. Blood 82 (3): 691-703, 1993.
46. Long-term follow-up of the Italian trial of interferon-alpha versus conventional chemotherapy in chronic myeloid leukemia. The Italian Cooperative Study Group on Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Blood 92 (5): 1541-8, 1998.
47. Cortes J, Kantarjian H, O'Brien S, et al.: Result of interferon-alpha therapy in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia 60 years of age and older. Am J Med 100 (4): 452-5, 1996.
48. Kluin-Nelemans HC, Buck G, le Cessie S, et al.: Randomized comparison of low-dose versus high-dose interferon-alfa in chronic myeloid leukemia: prospective collaboration of 3 joint trials by the MRC and HOVON groups. Blood 103 (12): 4408-15, 2004.
49. Hensley ML, Peterson B, Silver RT, et al.: Risk factors for severe neuropsychiatric toxicity in patients receiving interferon alfa-2b and low-dose cytarabine for chronic myelogenous leukemia: analysis of Cancer and Leukemia Group B 9013. J Clin Oncol 18 (6): 1301-8, 2000.
50. Sacchi S, Kantarjian H, O'Brien S, et al.: Immune-mediated and unusual complications during interferon alfa therapy in chronic myelogenous leukemia. J Clin Oncol 13 (9): 2401-7, 1995.
51. Michallet M, Maloisel F, Delain M, et al.: Pegylated recombinant interferon alpha-2b vs recombinant interferon alpha-2b for the initial treatment of chronic-phase chronic myelogenous leukemia: a phase III study. Leukemia 18 (2): 309-15, 2004.
52. Guilhot F, Chastang C, Michallet M, et al.: Interferon alfa-2b combined with cytarabine versus interferon alone in chronic myelogenous leukemia. French Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Study Group. N Engl J Med 337 (4): 223-9, 1997.
53. Baccarani M, Rosti G, de Vivo A, et al.: A randomized study of interferon-alpha versus interferon-alpha and low-dose arabinosyl cytosine in chronic myeloid leukemia. Blood 99 (5): 1527-35, 2002.
54. Higano CS, Raskind WH, Singer JW: Use of alpha interferon for the treatment of relapse of chronic myelogenous leukemia in chronic phase after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. Blood 80 (6): 1437-42, 1992.
55. Arcese W, Goldman JM, D'Arcangelo E, et al.: Outcome for patients who relapse after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation for chronic myeloid leukemia. Chronic Leukemia Working Party. European Bone Marrow Transplantation Group. Blood 82 (10): 3211-9, 1993.
56. Hehlmann R, Heimpel H, Hasford J, et al.: Randomized comparison of busulfan and hydroxyurea in chronic myelogenous leukemia: prolongation of survival by hydroxyurea. The German CML Study Group. Blood 82 (2): 398-407, 1993.

Accelerated-Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment Options for Accelerated-Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

1. Allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) or stem cell transplantation (SCT). In 132 patients with accelerated-phase CML, a cohort study compared imatinib as first-line therapy versus allogeneic SCT; with a median follow-up of 32 months, overall survival was improved using allogeneic SCT for the Sokal high-risk patients (100% vs. 17.7%; P = .008).[1][Level of evidence: 3iiiA] Sokal low- and intermediate-risk patients showed no survival differences starting with either approach. Induction of remission using a tyrosine kinase inhibitor followed by an allogeneic SCT, when feasible, is a standard approach for patients with accelerated-phase CML.[1]
2. Imatinib mesylate. Among 176 patients with accelerated-phase CML, the complete hematologic response was 82%, and the complete cytogenetic response was 43%; with a median follow-up of 41 months, the estimated 4-year survival was 53%.[2] Other tyrosine kinase inhibitors need to be evaluated as first-line therapy in accelerated-phase CML.
3. Interferon alpha.[3] Although the response rate is lower for accelerated-phase disease than it is for chronic-phase disease, durable responses and suppression of cytogenetic clonal evolution have been reported.[3,4] When cytarabine was added to interferon alpha, in comparison to historical controls of interferon alone, the response rate and 3-year survival appeared to be improved in late-stage patients.[4][Level of evidence: 3iiiA]
4. High-dose cytarabine.[5]
5. Hydroxyurea.
6. Busulfan.
7. Supportive transfusion therapy.

Patients with accelerated-phase CML show signs of progression without meeting the criteria for blast crisis (acute leukemia). Symptoms and findings include the following:

  • Increasing fatigue and malaise. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Fatigue for more information.)
  • Progressive splenomegaly.
  • Increasing leukocytosis and/or thrombocytosis.
  • Worsening anemia.

Bone marrow examination shows increasing blast cell percentage (but ≤30%) and basophilia. Additional cytogenetic abnormalities occur during the accelerated phase (trisomy 8, trisomy 19, isochromosome 17Q, p53 mutations or deletions), and the combination of hematologic progression plus additional cytogenetic abnormalities predicts for lower response rates and a shorter time-to-treatment failure on imatinib mesylate.[6] At 1 year after the start of imatinib, the failure rate is 68% for patients with both hematologic progression and cytogenetic abnormalities, 31% for patients with only hematologic progression, and 0% for patients with cytogenetic abnormalities only. Before the availability of imatinib, the median survival time of accelerated-phase CML patients was less than 1 year.[6]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with accelerated phase chronic myelogenous leukemia. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

References:

1. Jiang Q, Xu LP, Liu DH, et al.: Imatinib mesylate versus allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia in the accelerated phase. Blood 117 (11): 3032-40, 2011.
2. Kantarjian H, Talpaz M, O'Brien S, et al.: Survival benefit with imatinib mesylate therapy in patients with accelerated-phase chronic myelogenous leukemia--comparison with historic experience. Cancer 103 (10): 2099-108, 2005.
3. Cortes J, Talpaz M, O'Brien S, et al.: Suppression of cytogenetic clonal evolution with interferon alfa therapy in patients with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myelogenous leukemia. J Clin Oncol 16 (10): 3279-85, 1998.
4. Kantarjian HM, Keating MJ, Estey EH, et al.: Treatment of advanced stages of Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myelogenous leukemia with interferon-alpha and low-dose cytarabine. J Clin Oncol 10 (5): 772-8, 1992.
5. Kantarjian HM, Talpaz M, Kontoyiannis D, et al.: Treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia in accelerated and blastic phases with daunorubicin, high-dose cytarabine, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor. J Clin Oncol 10 (3): 398-405, 1992.
6. O'Dwyer ME, Mauro MJ, Kurilik G, et al.: The impact of clonal evolution on response to imatinib mesylate (STI571) in accelerated phase CML. Blood 100 (5): 1628-33, 2002.

Blastic-Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment Options for Blastic-Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

1. Imatinib mesylate, dasatinib, and nilotinib have demonstrated activity in patients with myeloid blast crisis and lymphoid blast crisis or Philadelphia chromosome–positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia.[1,2] Two trials of imatinib mesylate and one trial of dasatinib involving a total of 518 patients in blastic-phase CML confirm a hematologic response rate of 42% to 55% and a major cytogenetic response rate of 16% to 25%, but the estimated 2-year survival rate is under 28%.[2,3,4][Level of evidence: 3iiiA] Clinical trials will explore combining imatinib mesylate with other drugs to improve the prognosis of patients with blastic-phase CML.[5]
2. Vincristine and prednisone with or without an anthracycline is another treatment option (for the approximately 25% of patients with terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-positive cells and lymphoblastic transformation).[6,7]
3. Allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) represents the only potentially curative approach in these patients. Allogeneic BMT is more effective in patients induced into a second chronic phase.
4. Hydroxyurea as palliative therapy.
5. High-dose cytarabine.[8]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with blastic phase chronic myelogenous leukemia. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

References:

1. Druker BJ, Sawyers CL, Kantarjian H, et al.: Activity of a specific inhibitor of the BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase in the blast crisis of chronic myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia with the Philadelphia chromosome. N Engl J Med 344 (14): 1038-42, 2001.
2. Saglio G, Hochhaus A, Goh YT, et al.: Dasatinib in imatinib-resistant or imatinib-intolerant chronic myeloid leukemia in blast phase after 2 years of follow-up in a phase 3 study: efficacy and tolerability of 140 milligrams once daily and 70 milligrams twice daily. Cancer 116 (16): 3852-61, 2010.
3. Kantarjian HM, Cortes J, O'Brien S, et al.: Imatinib mesylate (STI571) therapy for Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myelogenous leukemia in blast phase. Blood 99 (10): 3547-53, 2002.
4. Sawyers CL, Hochhaus A, Feldman E, et al.: Imatinib induces hematologic and cytogenetic responses in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia in myeloid blast crisis: results of a phase II study. Blood 99 (10): 3530-9, 2002.
5. Fruehauf S, Topaly J, Buss EC, et al.: Imatinib combined with mitoxantrone/etoposide and cytarabine is an effective induction therapy for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia in myeloid blast crisis. Cancer 109 (8): 1543-9, 2007.
6. Preti HA, O'Brien S, Giralt S, et al.: Philadelphia-chromosome-positive adult acute lymphocytic leukemia: characteristics, treatment results, and prognosis in 41 patients. Am J Med 97 (1): 60-5, 1994.
7. Walters RS, Kantarjian HM, Keating MJ, et al.: Therapy of lymphoid and undifferentiated chronic myelogenous leukemia in blast crisis with continuous vincristine and adriamycin infusions plus high-dose decadron. Cancer 60 (8): 1708-12, 1987.
8. Kantarjian HM, Talpaz M, Kontoyiannis D, et al.: Treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia in accelerated and blastic phases with daunorubicin, high-dose cytarabine, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor. J Clin Oncol 10 (3): 398-405, 1992.

Relapsing Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Overt failure is defined as a loss of hematologic remission or progression to accelerated-phase or blast-crisis phase chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) as previously defined. Although presumed to represent relapsing disease, a rising quantitative reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction signal is a controversial finding. Prospective studies comparing resumption of therapy versus continued observation have not been performed. Similarly, there has been no prospective validation for failure to achieve certain benchmarks during initial therapy. For initial use of imatinib mesylate, the designation of relative failure has been proposed for lack of complete hematologic remission by 3 months, no cytogenetic response by 6 months, or no major cytogenetic response by 12 months.[1,2] Nilotinib and dasatinib induce such high rates of complete cytogenetic responses (93% of 155 patients in one series) and major molecular responses (87%) within several months that new benchmarks are required for responsiveness.[3] These investigators propose that a complete cytogenetic response by 3 months should define an optimal response.[3]

In case of treatment failure or suboptimal response, patients should undergo BCR/ABL kinase domain mutation analysis to help guide therapy with the newer tyrosine kinase inhibitors or with allogeneic transplantation.[4,5] Mutations in the tyrosine kinase domain can confer resistance to imatinib mesylate; alternative inhibitors such as dasatinib, nilotinib, or bosutinib, higher doses of imatinib mesylate, and allogeneic stem cell transplantation (SCT) have been studied in this setting.[6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18] Clinical trial participation should help establish the optimal sequence of these options.

Infusions of buffy-coat leukocytes or isolated T cells obtained by pheresis from the bone marrow transplant donor have induced long-term remissions in more than 50% of patients who relapse following allogeneic transplant.[19,20] The efficacy of this treatment is thought to be the result of an immunologic graft-versus-leukemia effect. This treatment is most effective for patients whose relapse is detectable only by cytogenetics or molecular studies and is associated with significant graft-versus-host disease. After relapse from allogeneic SCT, some patients will also respond to interferon alpha.[21] Most patients will respond to imatinib mesylate with durable (>1 year) cytogenetic and molecular responses. (These patients had not previously received imatinib.)[22,23,24]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with relapsing chronic myelogenous leukemia. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

References:

1. Baccarani M, Saglio G, Goldman J, et al.: Evolving concepts in the management of chronic myeloid leukemia: recommendations from an expert panel on behalf of the European LeukemiaNet. Blood 108 (6): 1809-20, 2006.
2. Marin D, Milojkovic D, Olavarria E, et al.: European LeukemiaNet criteria for failure or suboptimal response reliably identify patients with CML in early chronic phase treated with imatinib whose eventual outcome is poor. Blood 112 (12): 4437-44, 2008.
3. Jabbour E, Kantarjian HM, O'Brien S, et al.: Front-line therapy with second-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors in patients with early chronic phase chronic myeloid leukemia: what is the optimal response? J Clin Oncol 29 (32): 4260-5, 2011.
4. Soverini S, Hochhaus A, Nicolini FE, et al.: BCR-ABL kinase domain mutation analysis in chronic myeloid leukemia patients treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors: recommendations from an expert panel on behalf of European LeukemiaNet. Blood 118 (5): 1208-15, 2011.
5. Parker WT, Lawrence RM, Ho M, et al.: Sensitive detection of BCR-ABL1 mutations in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia after imatinib resistance is predictive of outcome during subsequent therapy. J Clin Oncol 29 (32): 4250-9, 2011.
6. Jabbour E, Cortes J, Kantarjian HM, et al.: Allogeneic stem cell transplantation for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia and acute lymphocytic leukemia after Bcr-Abl kinase mutation-related imatinib failure. Blood 108 (4): 1421-3, 2006.
7. le Coutre P, Ottmann OG, Giles F, et al.: Nilotinib (formerly AMN107), a highly selective BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitor, is active in patients with imatinib-resistant or -intolerant accelerated-phase chronic myelogenous leukemia. Blood 111 (4): 1834-9, 2008.
8. Hochhaus A, Baccarani M, Deininger M, et al.: Dasatinib induces durable cytogenetic responses in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia in chronic phase with resistance or intolerance to imatinib. Leukemia 22 (6): 1200-6, 2008.
9. Guilhot F, Apperley J, Kim DW, et al.: Dasatinib induces significant hematologic and cytogenetic responses in patients with imatinib-resistant or -intolerant chronic myeloid leukemia in accelerated phase. Blood 109 (10): 4143-50, 2007.
10. Kantarjian HM, Giles F, Gattermann N, et al.: Nilotinib (formerly AMN107), a highly selective BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitor, is effective in patients with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myelogenous leukemia in chronic phase following imatinib resistance and intolerance. Blood 110 (10): 3540-6, 2007.
11. Kantarjian H, Cortes J, Kim DW, et al.: Phase 3 study of dasatinib 140 mg once daily versus 70 mg twice daily in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia in accelerated phase resistant or intolerant to imatinib: 15-month median follow-up. Blood 113 (25): 6322-9, 2009.
12. Jabbour E, Jones D, Kantarjian HM, et al.: Long-term outcome of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia treated with second-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors after imatinib failure is predicted by the in vitro sensitivity of BCR-ABL kinase domain mutations. Blood 114 (10): 2037-43, 2009.
13. Apperley JF, Cortes JE, Kim DW, et al.: Dasatinib in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia in accelerated phase after imatinib failure: the START a trial. J Clin Oncol 27 (21): 3472-9, 2009.
14. Hughes T, Saglio G, Branford S, et al.: Impact of baseline BCR-ABL mutations on response to nilotinib in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia in chronic phase. J Clin Oncol 27 (25): 4204-10, 2009.
15. Kantarjian H, Pasquini R, Lévy V, et al.: Dasatinib or high-dose imatinib for chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia resistant to imatinib at a dose of 400 to 600 milligrams daily: two-year follow-up of a randomized phase 2 study (START-R). Cancer 115 (18): 4136-47, 2009.
16. Saglio G, Hochhaus A, Goh YT, et al.: Dasatinib in imatinib-resistant or imatinib-intolerant chronic myeloid leukemia in blast phase after 2 years of follow-up in a phase 3 study: efficacy and tolerability of 140 milligrams once daily and 70 milligrams twice daily. Cancer 116 (16): 3852-61, 2010.
17. Cortes JE, Kantarjian HM, Brümmendorf TH, et al.: Safety and efficacy of bosutinib (SKI-606) in chronic phase Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia patients with resistance or intolerance to imatinib. Blood 118 (17): 4567-76, 2011.
18. Khoury HJ, Cortes JE, Kantarjian HM, et al.: Bosutinib is active in chronic phase chronic myeloid leukemia after imatinib and dasatinib and/or nilotinib therapy failure. Blood 119 (15): 3403-12, 2012.
19. Kaeda J, O'Shea D, Szydlo RM, et al.: Serial measurement of BCR-ABL transcripts in the peripheral blood after allogeneic stem cell transplantation for chronic myeloid leukemia: an attempt to define patients who may not require further therapy. Blood 107 (10): 4171-6, 2006.
20. Dazzi F, Szydlo RM, Craddock C, et al.: Comparison of single-dose and escalating-dose regimens of donor lymphocyte infusion for relapse after allografting for chronic myeloid leukemia. Blood 95 (1): 67-71, 2000.
21. Pigneux A, Devergie A, Pochitaloff M, et al.: Recombinant alpha-interferon as treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia in relapse after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation: a report from the Société Française de Greffe de Moelle. Bone Marrow Transplant 15 (6): 819-24, 1995.
22. Olavarria E, Ottmann OG, Deininger M, et al.: Response to imatinib in patients who relapse after allogeneic stem cell transplantation for chronic myeloid leukemia. Leukemia 17 (9): 1707-12, 2003.
23. Kantarjian HM, O'Brien S, Cortes JE, et al.: Imatinib mesylate therapy for relapse after allogeneic stem cell transplantation for chronic myelogenous leukemia. Blood 100 (5): 1590-5, 2002.
24. Hess G, Bunjes D, Siegert W, et al.: Sustained complete molecular remissions after treatment with imatinib-mesylate in patients with failure after allogeneic stem cell transplantation for chronic myelogenous leukemia: results of a prospective phase II open-label multicenter study. J Clin Oncol 23 (30): 7583-93, 2005.

Changes to This Summary (02 / 14 / 2013)

The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.

General Information About Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Updated statistics with estimated new cases and deaths for 2013 (cited American Cancer Society as reference 1).

This summary is written and maintained by the PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of NCI. The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or NIH. More information about summary policies and the role of the PDQ Editorial Boards in maintaining the PDQ summaries can be found on the About This PDQ Summary and PDQ NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Database pages.

About This PDQ Summary

Purpose of This Summary

This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.

Reviewers and Updates

This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Board members review recently published articles each month to determine whether an article should:

  • be discussed at a meeting,
  • be cited with text, or
  • replace or update an existing article that is already cited.

Changes to the summaries are made through a consensus process in which Board members evaluate the strength of the evidence in the published articles and determine how the article should be included in the summary.

The lead reviewers for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment are:

  • Steven D. Gore, MD (Johns Hopkins University)
  • Mark J. Levis, MD, PhD (Johns Hopkins University)
  • Eric J. Seifter, MD (Johns Hopkins University)
  • Mikkael A. Sekeres, MD, MS (Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute)

Any comments or questions about the summary content should be submitted to Cancer.gov through the Web site's Contact Form. Do not contact the individual Board Members with questions or comments about the summaries. Board members will not respond to individual inquiries.

Levels of Evidence

Some of the reference citations in this summary are accompanied by a level-of-evidence designation. These designations are intended to help readers assess the strength of the evidence supporting the use of specific interventions or approaches. The PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board uses a formal evidence ranking system in developing its level-of-evidence designations.

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The preferred citation for this PDQ summary is:

National Cancer Institute: PDQ® Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/CML/HealthProfessional. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>.

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Based on the strength of the available evidence, treatment options may be described as either "standard" or "under clinical evaluation." These classifications should not be used as a basis for insurance reimbursement determinations. More information on insurance coverage is available on Cancer.gov on the Coping with Cancer: Financial, Insurance, and Legal Information page.

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Last Revised: 2013-02-14

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