▪ Objective: To compare efficacy of intensive postremission chemotherapy with allogeneic bone marrow transplantation in adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in first remission.
▪ Design: Retrospective comparison of two cohorts of patients.
▪ Setting: Chemotherapy recipients were treated in 44 hospitals in West Germany in two cooperative group trials; transplants were done in 98 hospitals worldwide.
▪ Patients: Patients (484) receiving intensive postremission chemotherapy and 251 recipients of HLA-identical sibling bone marrow transplants for ALL in first remission. Patients ranged from 15 to 45 years of age and were treated between 1980 and 1987.
▪ Main Results: Similar prognostic factors predicted treatment failure (non-T-cell phenotype, high leukocyte count at diagnosis, and 8 or more weeks to achieve first remission) of both therapies. After statistical adjustments were made for differences in disease characteristics and time-to-treatment, survival was similar in the chemotherapy and transplant cohorts: Five-year leukemia-free survival probability was 38% (95% Cl, 33% to 43%) with chemotherapy and 44% (Cl, 37% to 52%) with transplant. No specific prognostic group had a significantly better outcome with one treatment compared with the other (6% for the difference; Cl, - 3% to 15%). Causes of treatment failure differed: With chemotherapy, 268 (96%) failures were from relapse and 11 (4%) were treatment-related; with transplants, 43 (32%) failures were from relapse and 92 (68%) were treatment-related.
▪ Conclusions: These results suggest that bone marrow transplants currently offer no special advantage over chemotherapy for adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in first remission.