• advanced ALL;
  • BMT

One hundred and forty-seven patients aged <55 years with advanced acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) were enrolled in an Italian cooperative study (ALL R-87), This protocol consists of an induction phase with idarubicin (IDA) plus intermediate-dose cytarabine (IDARA-C), followed by a consolidation phase and bone marrow transplant (BMT). Complete remission (CR) was achieved in 97/147 patients (66%) with a CR rate of 77% in children versus 51% in adults (P<0·01), 48 responders (50%) underwent BMT.

Probability of event-free survival (EFS ± SE) was 10·2±3·1% at 56 months. EFS was 14·3±4·51% at 56 months for children versus 3·8±3·41% at 37 months for adults (P<0·0001). Among patients treated in first relapse, EFS was 14·2±7·79% for patients with CR >18 months versus 6·6±3·17% for those with CR <18 months (P<0·0001).

Projected disease-free survival (DFS ±SE) was 15·4±4·61% at 55 months for all responders and 43·3±14·34% at 52 months for allografted patients. Projected overall probability of survival ±SE for all patients was 18·8±4·13% at 56 months.

This study confirms the efficacy of IDA plus IDARA-C in poor-risk ALL patients. A more intensive post-remission therapy or alternative approach must be designed to improve long-term results.