Treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia with trans-retinoic acid. Experience of the Santa Maria Hospital, Medical School of Lisbon.

J F De Lacerda, J A Do Carmo, M C De Moura, M L Guerra, C Lopes, J Raposo, A Melo, J J De Oliveira, J M De Lacerda


Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a rare subtype of acute myelogenous leukemia that is usually associated with a fatal hemorrhagic diathesis. All trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) is an active metabolite of vitamin A that differentiates the malignant cell clone, corrects the coagulopathy, and induces complete remission in the vast majority of patients with APL. Between June 1992 and September 1993, 8 patients with APL (4 previously untreated, 3 in first relapse and 1 in second relapse) received ATRA. Complete remission was achieved in 7 patients; in 5 with ATRA alone and in 2 with ATRA followed by cytotoxic chemotherapy due to the development of asymptomatic hyperleukocytosis. The earliest signs of response were the correction of the coagulopathy and an increase in the white blood cell count. Sequential morphological and immunophenotypical analyses of the bone marrow revealed differentiation of the malignant cell clone, in the absence of bone marrow hypoplasia. 4 of 5 patients treated only with ATRA until complete remission had late leukopenia. The most frequent adverse effects were dryness of skin and mucosae, hypertrigliceridemia and hypercholesterolemia, and a moderate increase in liver transaminases. An increase in the white blood cell count was common, and in two cases exceeded 35.0 x 10(9)/l. One of these patients developed multiple thrombosis of the extremities after cytotoxic chemotherapy. We frequently observed an increase in lactic dehydrogenase levels that was concomitant with the peak in the white blood cell count. The only patient on whom complete remission was not achieved was 60 years old, had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and died in the third week of therapy with a pulmonary distress syndrome.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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