Background: Treatment of central nervous system relapse in adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a challenge and outcome is poor. Liposomal cytarabine has a prolonged half-life and, given intrathecally, has produced high response rates in patients with central nervous system relapse of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of liposomal cytarabine in central nervous system relapse of acute lymphoblastic leukemia or Burkitt's lymphoma/leukemia.
Design and methods: Liposomal cytarabine (50 mg) was given intrathecally together with systemic or intrathecal dexamethasone once every 2 weeks in a phase II European trial. The primary end-point, cytological response in the cerebrospinal fluid after one or two cycles, was evaluated at the time of next treatment.
Results: Nineteen heavily pretreated patients (median age, 53 years; range 24-76 years) were evaluable: 14 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and 5 with Burkitt's lymphoma/leukemia). Complete cytological remission as best response after two cycles of liposomal cytarabine was confirmed in 74% of the patients: 86% of those with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and 40% of those with Burkitt's lymphoma/leukemia). Nine of the 14 patients who achieved complete remission relapsed after a median of 7 months. The median overall survival was 11 months. Adverse events were observed in 89% of the patients (57% of cycles). Grade III-IV events with potential correlation to liposomal cytarabine occurred in 32% of the patients. The most frequent adverse event was headache. One patient developed severe neurological complications with loss of vision and a conus syndrome.
Conclusions: Overall, liposomal cytarabine showed excellent antileukemic activity. Toxicity was acceptable but appeared to increase with the number of cycles. Future evaluation in prophylaxis is of interest.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00199108.