Dexamethasone and High-Dose Methotrexate Improve Outcome for Children and Young Adults With High-Risk B-Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: A Report From Children's Oncology Group Study AALL0232

J Clin Oncol. 2016 Jul 10;34(20):2380-8. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.62.4544. Epub 2016 Apr 25.


Purpose: Survival for children and young adults with high-risk B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia has improved significantly, but 20% to 25% of patients are not cured. Children's Oncology Group study AALL0232 tested two interventions to improve survival.

Patients and methods: Between January 2004 and January 2011, AALL0232 enrolled 3,154 participants 1 to 30 years old with newly diagnosed high-risk B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia. By using a 2 × 2 factorial design, 2,914 participants were randomly assigned to receive dexamethasone (14 days) versus prednisone (28 days) during induction and high-dose methotrexate versus Capizzi escalating-dose methotrexate plus pegaspargase during interim maintenance 1.

Results: Planned interim monitoring showed the superiority of the high-dose methotrexate regimens, which exceeded the predefined boundary and led to cessation of enrollment in January 2011. At that time, participants randomly assigned to high-dose methotrexate during interim maintenance 1 versus those randomly assigned to Capizzi methotrexate had a 5-year event-free survival (EFS) of 82% versus 75.4% (P = .006). Mature final data showed 5-year EFS rates of 79.6% for high-dose methotrexate and 75.2% for Capizzi methotrexate (P = .008). High-dose methotrexate decreased both marrow and CNS recurrences. Patients 1 to 9 years old who received dexamethasone and high-dose methotrexate had a superior outcome compared with those who received the other three regimens (5-year EFS, 91.2% v 83.2%, 80.8%, and 82.1%; P = .015). Older participants derived no benefit from dexamethasone during induction and experienced excess rates of osteonecrosis.

Conclusion: High-dose methotrexate is superior to Capizzi methotrexate for the treatment of high-risk B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia, with no increase in acute toxicity. Dexamethasone given during induction benefited younger children but provided no benefit and was associated with a higher risk of osteonecrosis among participants 10 years and older.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage*
  • Dexamethasone / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / administration & dosage*
  • Methotrexate / adverse effects
  • Precursor B-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / drug therapy*
  • Precursor B-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / mortality
  • Young Adult


  • Dexamethasone
  • Methotrexate