Research Article

Combination chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in adults.

Br Med J 1978; 1 doi: (Published 28 January 1978) Cite this as: Br Med J 1978;1:199
  1. T A Lister,
  2. J M Whitehouse,
  3. M E Beard,
  4. R L Brearley,
  5. P F Wrigley,
  6. R T Oliver,
  7. J E Freeman,
  8. R K Woodruff,
  9. J S Malpas,
  10. A M Paxton,
  11. D Crowther


    Fifty-one adults with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia were entered into a trial of intense initial chemotherapy and early "prophylaxis" of the central nervous system (CNS). Initial treatment with OPAL (Oncovin (vincristine), prednisolone, adriamycin (doxorubicin), and L-asparaginase (colaspase)) followed by craniospinal or cranial irradiation and intrathecal methotrexate produced remission in 36 patients (71%). Seventeen of these patients relapsed three to 18 months after the start of remission; the remainder had been in remission for 12 to 52 months by the end of the study. The predicted median duration of complete remission was 18.5 months. None of the four patients who initially had clinical evidence of CNS disease, three of whom also had leukaemic cells identical to those found in Burkitt's lymphoma, achieved remission. Those patients who initially had hepatomegaly or splenomegaly had a shorter remission than those without. The predicted median survival was 27 months in those who achieved complete remission, one month in those who did not, and 21 months overall. The addition of colaspase and doxorubicin to vincristine and prednisolone and the use of early CNS treatment clearly improved the remission rate among adults with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, though the presence and length of remission was affected by the extent of disease at presentation. Burkitt-like leukaemia, which had a poor prognosis, is probably a separate disease and may benefit from a different therapeutic approach.