Background: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an aggressive form of blood cancers with a wide range of response and relapse rates using standard chemotherapy regimen (commonly known as 7+3). Several genes (FLT3, IDH1, RAS) have been targeted using small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors with encouraging results. The stem cell receptor tyrosine kinase KIT is expressed more than 10% in the blasts in 95% of relapsed AML cases and mediates leukemic proliferation and has anti-apoptotic effects (Domen and Weissman 2000). AML with high KIT expression is associated with poorer outcome (Del Poeta, Venditti et al 2003).

Goals: To study the efficacy and safety of combination 7+3 and nilotinib in patients (pts) with AML and KIT expression. Primary goal is to determine the complete response (CR) rate; while secondary goals include 2-year overall survival (OS) and disease free survival (DFS) in addition to safety of DATA regimen.

Methods: A single arm, Phase II study, enrolled pts at Mayo Clinic (MN and AZ). Appropriate IRB was obtained and study was registered (NCT 01806571). Pts were enrolled if they were newly diagnosed with AML with KIT (CD117) expression of 20% or higher on myeloblasts by flow cytometry. KIT mutations were allowed if present. Nilotinib 300 mg twice daily was given on days 4-14 of induction and consolidation; and continuous daily maintenance therapy for up to 2 years. Cytarabine 100 mg/m2/day continuous IV x7 days plus daunorubicin 60 mg/m2 IV daily x3 days were used for induction , while consolidation used standard cytarabine 3 gm/m2 twice daily days 1, 3, 5 for a total of 4 cycles. This is a Simon 1-stage design with a safety analysis after enrolling 12 pts, and an interim analysis after enrolling 18 out of 43 pts. If 11 or fewer pts achieve complete remission, the regimen will be considered ineffective.

Results: Eighteen pts have been enrolled between July 2013 and July 2015, 17 of which have baseline data. Median age was 58 years (range 24-65) with 76.5% being male. Median laboratory findings include hemoglobin of 9.3 gm/dL, platelets of 52 x109, and white blood count of 7.0 (0.5-125). Cytogenetics were normal in 41% of the pts. Favorable cytogenetics were seen in 2 pts (inv 16). FLT3 testing was done on 15 pts and was positive in 27%. KIT gene sequencing (exon 8, 9, 10, 11, 17) revealed no pathogenic mutation. Median number of cycles was 3 (range 1-7). Six pts had treatment delays, with 2/13 (15%) delays being due to non-hematologic toxicities. No delays or missed doses affected cytarabine and daunorubicin administration.

Out of 15 pts evaluable for response, 12 (80%) achieved CR (or CR with incomplete platelet recovery). Six of the 12 pts (50%) who achieved remission needed a second induction on protocol. Two out of 15 did not respond (did not get re-induction on protocol). One pt died before disease assessment due to liver failure (G5, had only one dose of nilotinib and toxicity was attributed to daunorubicin). Of the 14 pts having at least 1 bone marrow biopsy, the overall CR rate was 86%. Five (33%) pts proceeded to allogeneic stem cell transplant, all are alive and none were able to initiate protocol nilotinib maintenance therapy. Only 2 out of 12 (17%) pts relapsed after achieving CR, one was secondary AML from myelodysplastic syndrome with complex karyotype and the other was therapy-related AML with t(9;11). Only 2 (11%) pts died at time of report.

Thirteen pts were evaluated for adverse events (AE). Six pts had G4 non-hematological AEs. Five of 12 G4 AEs were related to infection, 2 were electrolyte imbalances, and 2 were heart failures. Most common G3 non-hematological AEs were febrile neutropenia (53%), hypophosphatemia (23%), hyperglycemia (23%), and hypertension (23%).

In agreement with the favorable outcomes, the molecular target validation revealed that nilotinib treatment down-regulates the expression of KIT, Sp1, DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) 1, DNMT3a and DNMT3b.

Conclusion: Combination daunorubicin and cytarabine with nilotinib (DATA) appears to be safe and effective. Interim results show an acceptable safety profile in the first 12 evaluable pts with most common AE being infection as expected. Thirty day mortality is acceptable (7%). DATA regimen has encouraging CR rates of 80% (intent to treat) and 86% in assessed pts, with half of the pts who achieved remission requiring 2 cycles of induction. Relapse rate seems to be low at 17%. We will continue accrual until all pts accrued for final results.


Al-Kali:Celgene: Research Funding. Off Label Use: This is a Phase II study of combination nilotinib to standard chemotherapy in patients diagnosed with AML.. Tibes:TetraLogic Pharmaceuticals: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.