Since 1980, adults with acute myelocytic leukemia (AML) have been treated on two clinical studies using intensive timed sequential therapy. All patients ages 16 to 80, including those with secondary AML (SAML) and those with AML preceded by a hematologic disorder (AHD), were treated, regardless of medical complications at the time of diagnosis. The first study combined high doses of cytarabine (ara-C, AC) and daunorubicin (DRN, D) in sequence (Ac2-D-Ac) and resulted in a complete remission rate of 55%. A group of these patients selected by functional status was able to receive a second course of therapy in remission, which resulted in a disease-free survival (DFS) of greater than 40% at 7 years. Because of toxicity in that study, 114 patients were entered on a second trial initiated 4 years ago, using a less aggressive first course, with amsacrine, to achieve a stable remission (Ac2-D-Amsa). This first treatment was followed by a more intensive second course (Ac6-D-Ac). With this two-step approach, a higher complete remission (CR) rate (76% for de novo AML and 54% for SAML-AHD) was achieved, and more patients were able to receive the second course of therapy. At the current median follow-up of 26 months, the median duration of DFS and overall survival are 11 and 14 months for patients with de novo AML. Age less than or equal to 55 is the most significant prognostic factor for both prolonged DFS and overall survival, with median durations of 17 and 18 months, respectively, for these younger patients. Patients with SAML-AHD remain relatively refractory to treatment despite aggressive chemotherapy, with median durations of DFS and overall survival of 9 months and 5 months, respectively.

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