Imatinib and methylprednisolone alternated with chemotherapy improve the outcome of elderly patients with Philadelphia-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia: results of the GRAALL AFR09 study

Leukemia. 2006 Sep;20(9):1526-32. doi: 10.1038/sj.leu.2404320. Epub 2006 Jul 13.


Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in the elderly is characterized by its ominous prognosis. On the other hand, imatinib has demonstrated remarkable, although transient, activity in relapsed and refractory Philadelphia-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL), which prompted us to assess the use of imatinib in previously untreated elderly patients. ALL patients aged 55 years or older were given steroids during 1 week. Ph+ve cases were then offered a chemotherapy-based induction followed by a consolidation phase with imatinib and steroids during 2 months. Patients in complete response (CR) after consolidation were given 10 maintenance blocks of alternating chemotherapy, including two additional 2-month blocks of imatinib. Thirty patients were included in this study and are compared with 21 historical controls. Out of 29 assessable patients, 21 (72%, confidence interval (CI): 53-87%) were in CR after induction chemotherapy vs 6/21 (29%, CI: 11-52%) in controls (P=0.003). Five additional CRs were obtained after salvage with imatinib and four after salvage with additional chemotherapy in the control group. Overall survival (OS) is 66% at 1 year vs 43% in the control group (P=0.005). The 1-year relapse-free survival is 58 vs 11% (P=0.0003). The use of imatinib in elderly patients with Ph+ ALL is very likely to improve outcome, including OS.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Benzamides
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Methylprednisolone / administration & dosage
  • Methylprednisolone / therapeutic use*
  • Philadelphia Chromosome*
  • Piperazines / administration & dosage
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / surgery*
  • Pyrimidines / administration & dosage
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Treatment Outcome*


  • Benzamides
  • Piperazines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Methylprednisolone