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Two hundred eighty-five patients, median age 42, with PML-RARα-positive acute promyelocytic leukaemia were randomised to Ara-C-containing 'Medical Research Council (MRC) Chemotherapy'+ATRA (All-trans-retinoic acid) or anthracycline+ATRA (modified 'Spanish') therapy. MRC treatment comprised four courses with ATRA in courses 1-2. Spanish treatment comprised four anthracycline-based courses with ATRA in courses 1-3. In course 3 patients were randomised to gemtuzumab ozogamicin (GO) or not. The Spanish arm received 24-month maintenance. Patients were sequentially molecularly monitored. Quality of life was assessed at baseline, 3, 6, 9, 12, 24 months. Remission rates were similar in both arms (93%): cumulative incidence of haematological relapse (CIHR) was 6% at 5 years; 5 patients relapsed molecularly. Survival post relapse was 80%. There were more deaths in remission in the MRC arm (4% vs 10%: P=0.2). The overall 5-year relapse-free and overall survival was similar between arms (81% vs 82% and 84% vs 83%, respectively). More supportive care and hospitalisation (81.8 vs 63 days, P<0.0001) was required in the MRC arm. GO did not provide benefit. High white blood cell count (>10 × 10(9)/l) was not prognostic overall, or within treatment arms. Both approaches deliver similar results with minor differences in quality of life. MRC treatment required more hospitalisation. This suggests that additional chemotherapy, Ara-C in particular, is not required.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





843 - 851


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Anthracyclines, Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Child, Child, Preschool, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute, Male, Middle Aged, Quality of Life, Treatment Outcome, Young Adult