Background: Overall survival (OS) remains the definitive primary efficacy endpoint to evaluate previously untreated acute myeloid leukemia (AML) therapies, but it requires prolonged follow-up. An earlier endpoint assessed post-treatment would expedite clinical trial conduct and accelerate patient access to effective new therapies. Our objective was to formally evaluate event-free survival (EFS) as a surrogate endpoint for OS in untreated AML.

Methods: Individual patient data were analyzed from 2,475 patients (pts) from 4 multicenter, randomized controlled phase III trials of active treatment in previously untreated AML using anthracycline and cytarabine induction chemotherapy as the concurrent control (CALGB 10201, n=506, enrollment period 2003-2006, age 60-88 years (y); CALGB 10603, n=717, enrollment period 2008-2015, age 18-60 y, FLT3-mutated pts only; SWOG 0106, n=595, enrollment period 2004-2009, age 18-60 y; ECOG-ACRIN 1900, n=657, enrollment period 2002-2008, age 17-60 y). Individual patient-level surrogacy examines the association between the individual patients' EFS and OS time after adjusting for treatment effect, and was assessed using the copula bivariate survival model (Kendall's tau). Trial-level surrogacy measures how precisely the treatment effect on OS can be predicted on the basis of observed treatment effect on EFS, and was evaluated using both linear regression (R2WLS) weighted by trial size and Copula bivariate (R2Copula) models. Pre-specified criteria for surrogacy required either R2WLS or R2Copula ≥0.80, neither below 0.7, with either lower bound 95% Confidence Interval (CI) >0.60. Sensitivity analyses were conducted using different EFS definitions (Table 1).

Results: With a median follow-up of 50.2 months for the 896 patients still alive, the median OS and EFS across all four trials were 20.9 months (95% CI: 19.0-22.7) and 5.6 months (95% CI: 4.5-6.4), respectively. Trial-level surrogacy for EFS was strong (R2WLS=0.79; R2Copula=0.89), indicating a high correlation of treatment effect between EFS and OS. At the individual patient-level, however, EFS showed weak association with OS (tau= 0.52), compared to the strength of trial-level surrogacy. The discrepancy between patient-level EFS and OS was greatest among patients who did not achieve a CR, followed by those who achieved a CR but relapsed (Figure 1).

Sensitivity analysis on alternative EFS definitions showed that the trial-level surrogacy was similar, but individual patient-level surrogacy varied across different EFS definitions (Table 1). This is consistent with what we previously reported (ASH 2016): EFS estimates differed considerably based on the definition of induction failure (IF) in a single arm setting, but this had minimal impact on the estimation of the treatment effect using EFS in randomized trials. In addition, when considering only relapse and death as events (definition 4), both individual patient- and trial-level correlations were high.

Conclusions: Correlation between EFS and OS was impacted by patients not achieving CR during induction. Despite the lack of patient-level correlation, a strong correlation between hazard ratios for treatment effects was observed between EFS and OS on the trial level. Hence, it remains debatable whether EFS represents a clinical benefit in itself for patient with untreated AML considering the strong correlation in treatment effects. Further validation is needed due to the small number of trials included and the heterogeneity across trials.

Acknowledgment: We gratefully acknowledge the important contributions of the late Dr. Stephen H. Petersdorf, SWOG S0106 Study Chair.

Support: U10CA180821, U10CA180882, U10CA180794, U10CA180820, U10CA180888;

Clinicaltrials.gov Identifiers: NCT00085124 (10201), NCT00651261 (10603), NCT01253070 (11001), NCT00085709 (SWOG S0106), and NCT00049517 (ECOG-ACRIN E1900)


Uy:Curis: Consultancy; GlycoMimetics: Consultancy. Larson:Pfizer: Consultancy, Research Funding; BristolMyers Squibb: Consultancy, Research Funding; Novartis: Consultancy, Research Funding; Ariad/Takeda: Consultancy, Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.