Arsenic in First Remission May Improve Leukemia Survival

Early use tied to better event-free, disease-free survival in acute promyelocytic leukemia

MONDAY, Nov. 22 (HealthDay News) -- When administered in early remission, arsenic appears to improve the survival rates of patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), according to a study published in the Nov. 11 issue of Blood.

Bayard L. Powell, M.D., of the Cancer and Leukemia Group B in Chicago, and colleagues investigated the effects of administering arsenic to patients in first remission. Arsenic was previously known to be an effective treatment for patients with relapsed APL. The study included 481 patients with untreated APL, aged 15 and older, who received standard treatment of all-trans retinoic acid plus chemotherapy, followed by standard consolidation therapy. Some of the patients were randomized to also receive two 25-day courses of intravenous arsenic trioxide.

The researchers found that, three years into the study, 80 percent of the group that received arsenic remained in complete remission. However, the group that did not receive the preemptive dose of arsenic reported an event-free survival rate of 63 percent. Disease-free survival was also significantly better in the arsenic group than the control group at three years (90 versus 70 percent).

"It gives us hope that, with the addition of arsenic trioxide earlier in treatment, we may be able to eliminate some of the chemotherapy and reduce toxicities and costs," Powell said in a statement.

Two study authors disclosed financial ties to Cephalon Oncology.

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