[en] The EORTC Leukemia Group (LG) has a long history of promoting the study of leukemias and related malignancies and reports here on three of their most significant achievements. In acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), the LG and Italian group GIMEMA started their fruitful collaboration in 1986 with the AML-8 trial with 1519 inclusions. In the AML-8A trial, in patients who reached complete remission, without a HLA identical sibling, autograft provided longer disease-free survival than a second course of consolidation, whereas the best outcome was observed in patients with a donor, who had to be allografted. The AML-10 trial set a new standard of treatment for induction/consolidation with replacement of daunorubicin by either idarubicin or mitoxantrone. The AML-12 trial tested the effect of high-dose cytosinearabinoside during induction (2109 inclusions, data base locked in August 2011 for final analysis). Development of intergroup trials focusing on subgroups of AML bearing specific genetic abnormalities is now mandatory to validate the “targeted approach” of driving molecular events. In high-risk myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), the phase III trial conducted by the LG in collaboration with the German MDS Study Group showed that the response rate of decitabine versus best supportive care was higher (complete or partial remissions, 19% versus 0%, and hematologic improvement, 15% versus 2%), progression-free survival was significantly prolonged (median 6.6 versus 3 months), cumulative incidence of AML was significantly decreased (22% versus 33% at one year), but the impact on OS was less evident (median 10.1 versus 8.5 months; hazard ratio 0.88). Quality of life had improved significantly in patients in the decitabine arm. The assessment of HDAC inhibitors, such as vorinostat, will probably be tested in the next trial. Also in MDS, relevant genetic lesions involved in the pathogenesis of this disease were identified using single nucleotide polymorphisms array-based genomic profiling and genomic sequencing in 102 patients with MDS. Acquired abnormalities of the TET2 gene were identified in 26% of the cases and in the EZH2 gene in 5−10% of the patients. TET2 mutations were detected in 96% of the bone marrow cells, including CD34+ progenitor cells, suggesting that TET2 mutations could be an early event during disease evolution. In normal bone marrow, TET2 expression was elevated in granulocytes, suggesting a role in myelopoiesis.
Conclusion: during the last 25 years the EORTC LG in cooperation with GIMEMA made a considerable contribution to the improvement of treatment results of patients with acute leukemia or MDS.