Intermediate-dose cytarabine plus mitoxantrone versus standard-dose cytarabine plus daunorubicin for acute myeloid leukemia in elderly patients

Ann Oncol. 2018 Apr 1;29(4):973-978. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdy030.


Background: The combination of intermediate-dose cytarabine plus mitoxantrone (IMA) can induce high complete remission rates with acceptable toxicity in elderly patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We present the final results of a randomized-controlled trial comparing IMA with the standard 7 + 3 induction regimen consisting of continuous infusion cytarabine plus daunorubicin (DA).

Patients and methods: Patients with newly diagnosed AML >60 years were randomized to receive either intermediate-dose cytarabine (1000 mg/m2 twice daily on days 1, 3, 5, 7) plus mitoxantrone (10 mg/m2 days 1-3) (IMA) or standard induction therapy with cytarabine (100 mg/m2 continuously days 1-7) plus daunorubicin (45 mg/m2 days 3-5) (DA). Patients in complete remission after DA received intermediate-dose cytarabine plus amsacrine as consolidation treatment, whereas patients after IMA were consolidated with standard-dose cytarabine plus mitoxantrone.

Results: Between February 2005 and October 2009, 485 patients were randomized; 241 for treatment arm DA and 244 for IMA; 76% of patients were >65 years. The complete response rate after DA was 39% [95% confidence interval (95% CI): 33-45] versus 55% (95% CI: 49-61) after IMA (odds ratio 1.89, P = 0.001). The 6-week early-death rate was 14% in both arms. Relapse-free survival curves were superimposable in the first year, but separated afterwards, resulting in 3-year relapse-free survival rates of 29% versus 14% in the DA versus IMA arms, respectively (P = 0.042). The median overall survival was 10 months in both arms (P = 0.513).

Conclusion: The dose escalation of cytarabine in induction therapy lead to improved remission rates in the elderly AML patients. This did not translate into a survival advantage, most likely due to differences in consolidation treatment. Thus, effective consolidation strategies need to be further explored. In combination with an effective consolidation strategy, the use of intermediate-dose cytarabine in induction may improve curative treatment for elderly AML patients.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Cytarabine / administration & dosage*
  • Cytarabine / adverse effects
  • Daunorubicin / administration & dosage*
  • Daunorubicin / adverse effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitoxantrone / administration & dosage*
  • Mitoxantrone / adverse effects
  • Remission Induction
  • Survival Analysis


  • Cytarabine
  • Mitoxantrone
  • Daunorubicin