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Keywords:

  • relapsed;
  • refractory;
  • childhood;
  • B-acute lymphoblastic leukaemia;
  • B-non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Twenty-six children with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (B-ALL) or Murphy Stage III or IV B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (B-NHL) progressed or relapsed after first-line therapy with a short, intensive multiagent chemotherapy regimen [United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study Group (UKCCSG) 9003] (n = 62) or a slightly less intensive regimen (UKCCSG 9002) (n = 112). Eight patients (4·6%) never achieved complete remission (CR) and 18 (10·3%) relapsed. Second-line therapy resulted in remission for eight patients (30%). All patients initially treated with the 9003 protocol died. Three patients (11·5%) in the 9002 group, including one who never achieved CR in the primary site, are alive after second-line therapy. This study confirms that the prognosis of relapsed or refractory B-ALL/B-NHL is poor and exceptionally so if relapse occurred less than 6 months from diagnosis. High-dose therapy with stem cell rescue was used in only seven patients; its role needs to be studied further.