National Italian Delphi panel consensus: which measures are indicated to minimize pegylated-asparaginase associated toxicity during treatment of adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia?

BMC Cancer. 2020 Oct 2;20(1):956. doi: 10.1186/s12885-020-07461-5.


Background: L-asparaginase (L-ASP) is a key component of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treatment, but its use in clinical practice raises challenges to clinicians due to a relatively high incidence of drug-related adverse events, mainly in adult patients. In the past years the use of ASP in adult population has been mainly limited due to a poor knowledge of its safety profile and to an approximate management of ASP-related toxicity. Recently the development of pediatric-inspired treatment protocols for adult ALL has led to a wider use of ASP and since 2010 in Italy three national treatment protocols including Pegylated asparaginase (Peg-ASP) have been sequentially developed for adolescents, young adults and adults with Philadelphia-negative (Ph-) ALL.

Methods: With the aim to better understand the approach adopted in Italian centers for the management and prevention of Peg-ASP toxicity in adult ALL and to provide practical, consensus-based recommendations, a board of 6 Italian clinicians, with known expertise in adult ALL, designed 41 consensus statements on current challenges on the management of Peg-ASP associated toxicity. A group of 19 clinical experts in the field then rated these statements using the 5-point Likert-type scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree).

Results: The main Peg-ASP related issues identified by the board included: 1) clinician's attitudes; 2) toxicity profile; 3) hypersensitivity reactions; 4) hepatic toxicity; 5) hepatic and/or metabolic toxicity; 6) hemorrhagic/thrombotic toxicity; 7) pancreatitis; 8) metabolic toxicity management and prevention; 9) activity levels monitoring. Overall, participants agreed on most statements, except those addressing the potential contraindications to the treatment with Peg-ASP, such as patients with a diagnosis of chronic liver disease or the subsequent administrations of the drug in patients who had previously developed chemical pancreatitis or severe metabolic toxicity. Participants agreed that adult patients with ALL should receive Peg-Asp because this drug is essential to improve treatment results.

Conclusions: The panel agreed that a critical evaluation of specific risk factors for each patient is crucial in order to reduce the risk of adverse events and specific advices in the management of Peg-ASP toxicities are reported.

Keywords: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia; Pegylated asparaginase; Toxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Asparaginase / toxicity*
  • Delphi Technique
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Polyethylene Glycols / toxicity*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / complications*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / drug therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • pegaspargase
  • Asparaginase