Results of decitabine (5-aza-2'deoxycytidine) therapy in 130 patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia

Cancer. 2003 Aug 1;98(3):522-8. doi: 10.1002/cncr.11543.


Background: General and site-specific DNA methylation is associated with tumor progression and resistance in several cancers, including chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Decitabine is a hypomethylating agent that has shown encouraging preliminary anti-CML activity. This study evaluated the activity and toxicity of decitabine in different phases of CML.

Methods: One hundred and thirty patients with CML were treated: 123 with Philadelphia chromosome (Ph)-positive CML (64 blastic, 51 accelerated, 8 chronic) and 7 with Ph-negative CML. Decitabine was given at 100 mg/m(2) over 6 hours every 12 hours x 5 days (1000 mg/m(2) per course) in the first 13 patients, 75 mg/m(2) in the subsequent 33 patients, and 50 mg/m(2) in the remaining 84 patients.

Results: A total of 552 courses were given to the 130 patients. Only four patients (3%) died during the first course from myelosuppressive complications (three patients) or progressive disease (one patient). Of 64 patients in the CML blastic phase, 18 patients (28%) achieved objective responses. Of these 18 patients, 6 achieved complete hematologic responses (CHR), 2 achieved partial hematologic responses (PHR), 7 achieved hematologic improvements (HI), and 3 returned to the second chronic phase (second CP). Five patients (8%) had cytogenetic responses. Among 51 patients in the accelerated phase, 28 patients (55%) achieved objective responses (12 CHR, 10 PHR, 3 HI, and 3 second CP). Seven patients (14%) had cytogenetic responses. Among eight patients treated in the chronic phase, five (63%) had objective responses. Of seven patients treated for Ph-negative CML, four (57%) had objective responses. There was no evidence of a dose-response effect. The estimated 3-year survival rate was less than 5% in the blastic phase and 27% in the accelerated phase. The only significant toxicity reported was severe myelosuppression, which was delayed, prolonged, and dose dependent. With decitabine 50-75 mg/m(2), the median time to granulocyte recovery above 0.5 x 10(9)/L was about 4 weeks. Myelosuppression-associated complications included febrile episodes in 37% and documented infections in 34%.

Conclusions: Decitabine appears to have significant anti-CML activity. Future studies should evaluate lower-dose, longer-exposure decitabine schedules alone in imatinib-resistant CML, as well as combinations of decitabine and imatinib in different CML phases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / adverse effects
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use*
  • Azacitidine / administration & dosage
  • Azacitidine / adverse effects
  • Azacitidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Azacitidine / therapeutic use*
  • Blast Crisis
  • DNA Modification Methylases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Decitabine
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, BCR-ABL Positive / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Decitabine
  • DNA Modification Methylases
  • Azacitidine