Introduction Elderly patients with acute myeloid leukemia not eligible for intensive antileukemic therapy are treated with less intensive therapies, uncertainty remains regarding their relative merits. Objectives To compare the effectiveness and safety of less intensive antileukemic therapies for older adults with newly diagnosed AML not candidates for intensive therapies. Methods We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and non-randomized studies (NRS) comparing less intensive therapies in adults over 55 years with newly diagnosed AML. We searched MEDLINE and EMBASE from inception to August 2021. We assessed risk of bias of RCTs with a modified Cochrane Risk of Bias tool, and NRS with the Non-Randomized Studies of Interventions tool (ROBINS-I). We calculated pooled hazard ratios (HRs), risk ratios (RRs), mean differences (MD) and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using a random- effects pairwise meta-analyses and assessed the certainty of evidence using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach. Results We included 27 studies (17 RCTs, 10 NRS; n = 5,698), which reported 9 comparisons. Patients were treated with azacitidine, decitabine, and low-dose cytarabine (LDAC), as monotherapies or in combination with other agents. Moderate certainty of evidence suggests no convincing difference in overall survival of patients who receive azacitidine monotherapy compared to LDAC monotherapy (HR 0.69; 95% CI, 0.31-1.53), fewer febrile neutropenia events occurred between azacitidine monotherapy to azacitidine combination (RR 0.45; 95% CI, 0.31-0.65), and, fewer neutropenia events occurred between LDAC monotherapy to decitabine monotherapy (RR 0.62; 95% CI 0.44-0.86). All other comparisons and outcomes had low or very low certainty of evidence. Conclusion There is no convincing superiority in OS when comparing less intensive therapies. Azacitidine monotherapy is likely to have fewer adverse events than azacitidine combination (febrile neutropenia), and LDAC monotherapy is likely to have fewer adverse events than decitabine monotherapy (neutropenia).
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