PURPOSEWe assessed the toxicity and efficacy of dexamethasone and a novel dosing method of Escherichia coli L-asparaginase (EC-Asnase) in children and adolescents with newly diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). PATIENTS AND METHODSPatients achieving complete remission (CR) on Dana-Farber Cancer Institute ALL Consortium Protocol 00-01 were eligible for random assignment to 1) dexamethasone or prednisone, administered as 5-day pulses, every 3 weeks, and 2) weekly EC-Asnase, administered as a 25,000 IU/m(2) fixed dose (FD) or individualized dose (ID) starting at 12,500-IU/m(2), adjusted every 3 weeks based on nadir serum asparaginase activity (NSAA) determinations.ResultsBetween 2000 and 2004, 492 evaluable patients (ages 1 to 18 years) enrolled; 473 patients (96%) achieved CR. Four hundred eight patients (86%) participated in the corticosteroid randomization and 384 patients (81%) in the EC-Asnase randomization. With 4.9 years of median follow-up, dexamethasone was associated with superior 5-year event-free survival (EFS; 90% v 81% for prednisone; P = .01) but higher rates of infection (P = .03) and, in older children, higher cumulative incidence of osteonecrosis (P = .02) and fracture (P = .06). ID EC-Asnase had superior 5-year EFS (90% v 82% for FD; P = .04), but did not reduce the frequency of asparaginase-related toxicity. Multivariable analysis identified both dexamethasone and ID EC-Asnase as independent predictors of favorable EFS. CONCLUSIONThere was no overall difference in skeletal toxicity by corticosteroid type; dexamethasone was associated with more infections and, in older children, increased incidence of osteonecrosis and fracture. There was no difference in asparaginase-related toxicity by EC-Asnase dosing method. Dexamethasone and ID EC-Asnase were each associated with superior EFS. Monitoring NSAA during treatment with EC-Asnase may be an effective strategy to improve outcome in pediatric ALL.
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