Background: Most children with cancer live in low-income countries (LICs) where risk factors in paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) developed in high-income countries may not apply.
Methods: We describe predictors of survival for children in El Salvador with ALL. We included patients <16 years diagnosed with ALL between January 2001 and July 2007 treated with the El Salvador-Guatemala-Honduras II protocol. Demographic, disease-related, socioeconomic and nutritional variables were examined as potential predictors of event-free survival (EFS) and overall survival (OS).
Results: 260/443 patients (58.7%) were classified as standard risk. Standard- and high-risk 5-year EFS were 56.3 ± 4.5% and 48.6 ± 5.5%; 5-year OS were 77.7 ± 3.8% and 61.9 ± 5.8%, respectively. Among standard-risk children, socioeconomic variables such as higher monthly income (hazard ratio [HR] per $100 = 0.84 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.70-0.99; P=0.04]) and parental secondary education (HR = 0.49, 95% CI 0.29-0.84; P = 0.01) were associated with better EFS. Among high-risk children, higher initial white blood cell (HR per 10×10(9)/L = 1.03, 95% CI 1.02-1.05; P<0.001) predicted worse EFS; socioeconomic variables were not predictive. The difference in EFS and OS appeared related to overestimating OS secondary to poor follow-up after abandonment/relapse.
Conclusion: Socioeconomic variables predicted worse EFS in standard-risk children while disease-related variables were predictive in high-risk patients. Further studies should delineate pathways through which socioeconomic status affects EFS in order to design effective interventions. EFS should be the primary outcome in LIC studies.
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