First relapse of B-ALL in children and AYAs is a vexing clinical problem with high rates of subsequent relapse and death using conventional treatment approaches. This is especially true in patients with early relapse [high risk (HR), defined as marrow relapse <36 months from diagnosis or isolated extramedullary relapse <18 months from diagnosis] and those with late relapse and minimal residual disease (MRD) of ≥0.1% at the end of re-induction chemotherapy [intermediate risk (IR)]. Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) is considered the treatment of choice for this population, but many relapsed patients are not able to proceed to HSCT due to adverse events (AEs) from chemotherapy and/or inability to achieve the MRD-negative second remission known to be associated with optimal HSCT outcomes. The CD3-CD19 BiTE® blinatumomab has single agent efficacy in relapsed/refractory B-ALL (pediatrics and adults) and MRD-positive B-ALL (adults), and a favorable toxicity profile. The primary aim of this study was to compare disease-free survival (DFS) of HR/IR first relapse B-ALL patients aged 1-30 years randomized following re-induction chemotherapy (Block 1 of UKALLR3/mitoxantrone arm) to receive either two intensive chemotherapy blocks (Blocks 2 and 3 of UKALLR3; Control Arm A) or two 4-week blocks of blinatumomab, each followed by one week of rest (Blina cycles 1 and 2; Experimental Arm B). Patients with ≥25% marrow blasts after Block 1 were ineligible for randomization. After randomized therapy, patients on both arms proceeded to HSCT. Secondary aims included comparisons of the following between Arms A and B: AEs, MRD response (by flow cytometry, central lab), overall survival (OS) and ability to proceed to HSCT. During a planned interim analysis (data cut-off 6/30/19) by the Data Safety and Monitoring Committee, the HR/IR randomization was stopped early. While the improvement in DFS for Arm B did not cross the predefined superiority threshold at the time of interim analysis, the combination of improved DFS, superior OS, lower toxicity, and superior MRD clearance for Arm B relative to Arm A was judged to provide sufficiently compelling evidence to establish a new standard of care.

A total of 208 HR/IR patients were randomized (Arm A: 103, Arm B: 105). Baseline characteristics were comparable between arms (Table 1). With median follow up of 1.4 years, the intent-to-treat (ITT) 2-year DFS (% ± standard error) was 41.0 ± 6.2% for Arm A vs. 59.3 ± 5.4% for Arm B (p=0.05, 1-sided per pre-specified statistical plan)(Figure 1A). The ITT 2-year OS was 59.2 ± 6.0% for Arm A vs. 79.4 ± 4.5% for Arm B (p=0.005, 1-sided)(Figure 1B). Among patients with detectable MRD (≥0.01%) at the completion of Block 1 chemotherapy, the proportion that achieved undetectable MRD (<0.01%) after Block 2 (Arm A) vs. Blina cycle 1 (Arm B) was 21% vs. 79% (p<0.0001)(Table 2). The rates of MRD response were similar with Block 3 or Blina cycle 2 (Table 2). Post-induction toxic deaths occurred in 4 patients on Arm A (all infections) vs. none on Arm B (p=0.05). Relative rates of CTCAEv4 grade ≥3 febrile neutropenia, infections, sepsis and mucositis were strikingly higher for Block 2/3 (Arm A) vs. Blina cycle 1/2 (Arm B): 44%/46% vs. 4%/0%, 41%/61% vs. 10%/11%, 14%/21% vs. 1%/2%, and 25%/7% vs. 0/1% respectively (p<0.001 for all comparisons except mucositis for Block 3 vs. Blina cycle 2, p=0.16). For Arm B, the rate of selected blinatumomab-related AEs in cycle 1/2 were: Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) 22%/1% (grade ≥3 1%/0%); seizure 4%/0% (1%/0%); other neurotoxicity (e.g., cognitive disturbance, tremor, ataxia, dysarthria) 14%/11% (2%/2%). All blinatumomab-related AEs fully resolved. The rate of patients successfully proceeding from randomization to HSCT (data cut-off 9/30/19) was strikingly different between arms. On Arm A, only 45% (44 of 98 who received randomized therapy) proceeded to HSCT. On Arm B, 73% (75 of 103 who received randomized therapy) proceeded to HSCT (p<0.0001).

In conclusion, for children and AYA patients with HR/IR first relapse of B-ALL, blinatumomab is superior to standard chemotherapy as post-reinduction consolidation prior to HSCT, resulting in fewer and less severe toxicities, higher rates of MRD response, greater likelihood of proceeding to HSCT and improved disease-free and overall survival. Patients remain in follow up, and prospectively defined analyses of longer-term outcomes will be forthcoming.


Brown:Jazz: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Servier: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Novartis: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Borowitz:Beckman Coulter: Honoraria. Raetz:Pfizer: Research Funding. Zugmaier:Amgen: Employment, Other: holds stock, Patents & Royalties: & other intellectual property. Gore:Amgen: Consultancy, Equity Ownership, Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Other: travel expenses; Novartis: Consultancy, Other: Service on Data Safety Monitoring Committee; travel, accommodations, expenses; Roche/Genentech: Consultancy, Honoraria, Other: travel expenses; Anchiano: Equity Ownership, Other: spouse employment and company leadership; Blueprint Medicines: Equity Ownership; Celgene: Equity Ownership, Other: DSMC member; Clovis: Equity Ownership; Mirati: Equity Ownership; Sanofi Paris: Equity Ownership. Pulsipher:Medac: Honoraria; Miltenyi: Research Funding; Bellicum: Consultancy; Novartis: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Speakers Bureau; Jazz: Other: Education for employees; Adaptive: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; CSL Behring: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Amgen: Other: Lecture. Hunger:Amgen: Consultancy, Equity Ownership; Bristol Myers Squibb: Consultancy; Jazz: Honoraria; Novartis: Consultancy. Loh:Medisix Therapeutics, Inc.: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees.

OffLabel Disclosure:

Investigational use of blinatumomab

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.