Impact of frontline treatment approach on outcomes of myeloid blast phase CML

Kapil Saxena, Elias Jabbour, Ghayas Issa, Koji Sasaki, Farhad Ravandi, Abhishek Maiti, Naval Daver, Tapan Kadia, Courtney D. DiNardo, Marina Konopleva, Jorge E. Cortes, Musa Yilmaz, Kelly Chien, Sherry Pierce, Hagop Kantarjian, Nicholas J. Short

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: The natural course of untreated chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is progression to an aggressive blast phase. Even in the current era of BCR-ABL1 tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), the outcomes of blast phase CML remain poor with no consensus frontline treatment approach. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed the response rates and survival outcomes of 104 consecutive patients with myeloid blast phase CML (CML-MBP) treated from 2000 to 2019 based on 4 different frontline treatment approaches: intensive chemotherapy (IC) + TKI (n = 20), hypomethylating agent (HMA) + TKI (n = 20), TKI alone (n = 56), or IC alone (n = 8). We also evaluated the impact of TKI selection and subsequent allogeneic stem cell transplant (ASCT) on patient outcomes. Results: Response rates were similar between patients treated with IC + TKI and HMA + TKI. Compared to treatment with TKI alone, treatment with IC/HMA + TKI resulted in a higher rate of complete remission (CR) or CR with incomplete count recovery (CRi) (57.5% vs 33.9%, p < 0.05), a higher complete cytogenetic response rate (45% vs 10.7%, p < 0.001), and more patients proceeding to ASCT (32.5% vs 10.7%, p < 0.01). With a median follow-up of 6.7 years, long-term outcomes were similar between the IC + TKI and HMA + TKI groups. Combination therapy with IC/HMA + TKI was superior to therapy with TKI alone, including when analysis was limited to those treated with a 2nd/3rd-generation TKI. When using a 2nd/3rd-generation TKI, IC/HMA + TKI led to lower 5-year cumulative incidence of relapse (CIR; 44% vs 86%, p < 0.05) and superior 5-year event-free survival (EFS; 28% vs 0%, p < 0.05) and overall survival (OS; 34% vs 8%, p = 0.23) compared to TKI alone. Among patients who received IC/HMA + TKI, EFS and OS was superior for patients who received a 2nd/3rd generation TKI compared to those who received imatinib-based therapy. In a landmark analysis, 5-year OS was higher for patients who proceeded to ASCT (58% vs 22%, p = 0.12). Conclusions: Compared to patients treated with TKI alone for CML-MBP, treatment with IC + TKI or HMA + TKI led to improved response rates, CIR, EFS, and OS, particularly for patients who received a 2nd/3rd-generation TKI. Combination therapy with IC + TKI or HMA + TKI, rather than a TKI alone, should be considered the optimal treatment strategy for patients with CML-MBP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number94
JournalJournal of Hematology and Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Blast phase
  • CML
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hypomethylating agent
  • TKI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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