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Refractory acute leukaemia in adults treated with sequential colaspase and high-dose methotrexate

Br Med J 1978; 2 doi: (Published 16 September 1978) Cite this as: Br Med J 1978;2:791

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  1. Boh-Seng Yap,
  2. Kenneth B McCredie,
  3. Robert S Benjamin,
  4. Gerald P Bodey,
  5. Emil J Freireich


    Thirty-nine adults with acute leukaemia who had relapsed when receiving extensive chemotherapy were treated with a combination of methotrexate and colaspase (L-asparaginase) given sequentially. Patients initially received 50-80 mg/m2 methotrexate, followed three hours later by intravenous colaspase, 40 000 IU/m2. Seven days later intravenous methotrexate, 120 mg/m2 was given. Each dose of methotrexate was followed 24 hours later by colaspase, and the two-day course of treatment was repeated every 7-14 days. The methotrexate dose was increased to tolerance by increments of 40 mg/m2 with each course, while the colaspase dose remained constant unless abnormal liver function developed, when it was reduced by half.

    Overall, 18 out of 39 patients achieved complete remission (46%). Of these, 13 out of 21 (62%) had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, three out of seven (43%) acute undifferentiated leukaemia, and two out of 11 (18%) acute myeloblastic leukaemia. The median duration of complete remission was 20 weeks and the median duration of survival in complete responders was 45 weeks. The median number of courses needed to achieve complete remission was three. The maximum tolerated dose of methotrexate was 400 mg/m2 (median 200 mg/m2). Major side effects were due to colaspase. Methotrexate in doses of up to 400 mg/m2 caused minimal myelosuppression and stomatitis, which suggested that colaspase given sequentially provides relative protection from methotrexate toxicity without the need for folinic acid (citrovorum factor) rescue.

    The combination of sequential colaspase and methotrexate is highly effective in reinducing remission in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia or acute undifferentiated leukaemia. The regimen is easy to administer and relatively non-toxic, so it is suitable for use in outpatients, either alone or combined with other agents.