Purpose: To determine the safety and efficacy of arsenic trioxide (ATO) in patients with relapsed acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL).
Patients and methods: Forty patients experiencing first (n = 21) or > or = second (n = 19) relapse were treated with daily infusions of ATO to a maximum of 60 doses or until all leukemic cells in bone marrow were eliminated. Patients who achieved a complete remission (CR) were offered one consolidation course of ATO that began 3 to 4 weeks later. Patients who remained in CR were eligible to receive further cycles of ATO therapy on a maintenance study.
Results: Thirty-four patients (85%) achieved a CR. Thirty-one patients (91%) with CRs had posttreatment cytogenetic tests negative for t(15;17). Eighty-six percent of the patients who were assessable by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction converted from positive to negative for the promyelocytic leukemia/retinoic acid receptor-alpha transcript by the completion of their consolidation therapy. Thirty-two patients received consolidation therapy, and 18 received additional ATO as maintenance. Eleven patients underwent allogeneic (n = 8) or autologous (n = 3) transplant after ATO treatment. The 18-month overall and relapse-free survival (RFS) estimates were 66% and 56%, respectively. Twenty patients (50%) had leukocytosis (> 10,000 WBC/microL) during induction therapy. Ten patients developed signs or symptoms suggestive of the APL syndrome and were effectively treated with dexamethasone. Electrocardiographic QT prolongation was common (63%). One patient had an absolute QT interval of > 500 msec and had an asymptomatic 7-beat run of torsades de pointe. Two patients died during induction, neither from drug-related causes.
Conclusion: This study establishes ATO as a highly effective therapy for patients with relapsed APL.