In this review we have considered the role of ABMT for the acute leukemias. It is apparent from data around the world that ABMT is a curative therapy for patients with both AML and ALL after primary treatment failure. Other than allogeneic BMT, ABMT may be the only curative therapy following relapse, especially in AML. The role of ABMT in first CR is less well defined. There are few data to support the widespread use of ABMT in first CR for ALL. Moreover, the improved survival of adults with ALL with current intense multiagent regimens will probably obviate the need to continue clinical trials of ABMT for ALL in first CR. For patients with AML in first CR, however, it seems that ABMT may well lead to improved rates of DFS compared with chemotherapy alone. Almost every published report describes better DFS for patients who underwent ABMT compared with historical or contemporary controls who were treated with chemotherapy. One note of caution is that as chemotherapy evolves, the increment in survival currently observed from ABMT may diminish, thus rendering ABMT less obviously necessary. On the other hand, from an economic standpoint, ABMT could prove to be cost- effective, because a short, intense treatment that is effective may prove to be less costly than the current extended period of chemotherapy. Because ABMT is becoming safer, it would seem reasonable to continue its use in patients with AML at high risk for relapse (secondary AML, adverse cytogenetics, and so on) while awaiting the outcome of the randomized clinical trials currently underway that are seeking to define the role of ABMT for the general population of patients with AML after initial remission is achieved. Meanwhile, further definition of the relative value of the various purging regimens, preparative regimens, and adjunctive therapy (i.e., IL-2, mAb) warrants study.
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