A total of 68 adult patients with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) were treated in three consecutive adult multicenter ALL studies. The diagnosis of B-ALL was confirmed by L3 morphology and/or by surface immunoglobulin (Slg) expression with > 25% blast cell infiltration in the bone marrow (BM). They were characterized by male predominance (78%) and a median age of 34 years (15 to 65 y) with only 9% adolescents (15 to 20 y), but 28% elderly patients (50 to 65 y). The patients received either a conventional (N = 9) ALL treatment regimen (ALL study 01/81) or protocols adapted from childhood B-ALL with six short, intensive 5-day cycles, alternately A and B. In study B-NHL83 (N = 24) cycle A consisted of fractionated doses of cyclophosphamide 200 mg/m2 for 5 days, intermediate-dose methotrexate (IdM) 500 mg/m2 (24 hours), in addition to cytarabine (AraC), teniposide (VM26) and prednisone. Cycle B was similar except that AraC and VM26 were replaced by doxorubicin. Major changes in study B-NHL86 (N = 35) were replacement of cyclophosphamide by ifosphamide 800 mg/m2 for 5 days, an increase of IdM to high-dose, 1,500 mg/m2 (HdM) and the addition of vincristine. A cytoreductive pretreatment with cyclophosphamide 200 mg/m2, and prednisone 60 mg/m2, each for 5 days was recommended in study B-NHL83 for patients with high white blood cell (WBC) count (e 2,500/m2) or large tumor burden and was obligatory for all patients in study B-NHL86. Central nervous system (CNS) prophylaxis/treatment consisted of intrathecal methotrexate (MTX) therapy, later extended to the triple combination of MTX, AraC, and dexamethasone, and a CNS irradiation (24 Gy) after the second cycle. Compared with the ALL 01/81 study where all the patients died, results obtained with the pediatric protocols B-NHL83 and B-NHL86 were greatly improved. The complete remission (CR) rates increased from 44% to 63% and 74%, the probability of leukemia free survival (LFS) from 0% to 50% and 71% (P = .04), and the overall survival rates from 0% to 49% and 51% (P = .001). Toxicity, mostly hematotoxicity and mucositis, was severe but manageable. In both studies B-NHL83 and B-NHL86, almost all relapses occurred within 1 year. The time to relapse was different for BM, 92 days, and for isolated CNS and combined BM and CNS relapses, 190 days (P = .08). The overall CNS relapses changed from 50% to 57% and 17%, most probably attributable to the high-dose MTX and the triple intrathecal therapy. LFS in studies B-NHL83 and B-NHL86 was significantly influenced by the initial WBC count < or > 50,000/microL, LFS 71% versus 29% (P = .003) and hemoglobin value > or < 8 g/dL, LFS 67% versus 27% (P = .02). Initial CNS involvement had no adverse impact on the outcome. Elderly B- ALL patients (> 50 years) also benefited from this treatment with a CR rate of 56% and a LFS of 56%. It is concluded that this short intensive therapy with six cycles is effective in adult B-ALL. HdM and fractionated higher doses of cyclophosphamide or ifosphamide seem the two major components of treatment.

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