Improved OS and lower relapse risk were observed following TBI plus etoposide compared with chemoconditioning. Patients ≤18 years old at diagnosis and aged 4-21 at HSCT with high risk ALL in complete morphological remission with HLA compatible related or unrelated donor were included in the study. Patients were randomised 1:1 to 12Gy TBI with etoposide versus fludarabine, thiotepa and busulfan or triosulphan conditioning. Patients were well matched for baseline characteristics and demographics. Randomisation was stopped early due significant inferiority of chemoconditioning compared with TBI-based regime.
Following randomisation of 417 patients, a futility stopping rule was applied because patients receiving chemoconditioning with fludarabine, thiotepa, and busulfan or treosulfan had inferior OS to those receiving TBI plus etoposide. Two-year OS was 0.91 (95% CI, P <.0001) following TBI versus 0.75 (95% CI) following chemoconditioning. Median follow up was 2.1 years. Relapse was the commonest reason for treatment failure and out of 67 patients who relapsed, there was no difference in OS between conditioning regimes. There was no difference in serious adverse events or GvHD rates between the groups.
While TBI is associated with potentially serious long-term side effects, this study supports growing evidence demonstrating improved outcomes for patients undergoing TBI-based conditioning. Here patients receiving TBI-based conditioning had a significantly lower risk of relapse and TRM than those given chemoconditioning.
Of note, TRM in this trial was low compared to previously reported studies. FOCUS reported a 2-year OS and EFS rate of 0.91 and 0.91 respectively, which is the lowest documented TRM in HSCT for high-risk paediatric ALL to date. Additionally, other risk factors thought to impact on outcomes (e.g. leukaemia phenotype, MRD pre-transplant, donor type, etc) were not found to be significant in FOCUS. Only remission status (CR1 vs CR2) and conditioning regime influenced OS and EFS. This may be in part explained by the strong attempts within this study to reduce MRD prior to HSCT in all patients.
This was a noninferiority study which required a sample size of 1000 patients with 2-year minimum follow-up to make analysis of primary outcomes feasible. As the majority of relapses in paediatric ALL occur in the first 24 months, it is unlikely that longer follow up would result in dramatic changes to outcomes.
Non-randomised recruitment in FORUM to assess long-term side effects of TBI, such as secondary malignancy, in FORUM is ongoing. However, no difference in adverse events or incidence of GvHD was found between study groups. The study reports a composite end point of 2-year GVHD-free, relapse-free survival of 72% (95% CI) following TBI plus etoposide and 51% (95% CI, p= .0003) following chemoconditioning which might be a benchmark for future investigations.