We sought to appraise the value of overall response and salvage chemotherapy, inclusive of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (AHSCT), in primary refractory acute myeloid leukemia (prAML). For establishing consistency in clinical practice, the 2017 European LeukemiaNet (ELN) defines prAML as failure to attain CR after at least 2 courses of intensive induction chemotherapy. Among 60 consecutive patients (median age 63 years) correspondent with ELN-criteria for prAML, salvage was documented in 48 cases, 30/48 (63%) being administered intensive chemotherapy regimens and 2/48 consolidated with AHSCT as first line salvage. 13/48 (27%) attained response: CR, 7/13 (54%), CRi, 2/13 (15%), MLFS, 4/13 (31%). The CR/CRi rate was 9/48 (19%), with CR rate of 7/48 (15%). On univariate analysis, intermediate-risk karyotype was the only predictor of response (44% vs 17% in unfavorable karyotype; P = 0.04). Administration of any higher-dose (>1 g/m2) cytarabine intensive induction (P = 0.50), intensive salvage chemotherapy (P = 0.72), targeted salvage (FLT3 or IDH inhibitors) (P = 0.42), greater than 1 salvage regimen (P = 0.89), age < 60 years (P = 0.30), and de novo AML (P = 0.10) did not enhance response achievement, nor a survival advantage. AHSCT was performed in 12 patients with (n = 8) or without (n = 4) CR/CRi/MLFS. 1/2/5-year overall survival (OS) rates were 63%/38%/33% in patients who received AHSCT (n = 12) vs 27%/0%/0% in those who achieved CR/CRi/MLFS but were not transplanted (n = 5), vs 14%/0%/0% who were neither transplanted nor achieved CR/CRi/MLFS (n = 43; P < 0.001); the median OS was 18.6, 12.6 and 5.6 months, respectively. Although CR/CRi/MLFS bridged to AHSCT (n = 8), appeared to manifest a longer median OS (20 months), vs (13.4 months) for those with no response consolidated with AHSCT (n = 4), the difference was not significant P = 0.47. We conclude AHSCT as indispensable for securing long-term survival in prAML (p = 0.03 on multivariate analysis), irrespective of response achievement.
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