Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a malignant cancer of hematopoietic stem cells. The treatment of AML consists of two treatment phases: the remission induction phase to achieve a rapid, complete remission (CR) and the consolidation phase to achieve a durable molecular remission. People in CR are at risk of AML relapse, and people with relapsed AML have poor survival prospects. Thus, there is a continuous need for treatments to further improve prognosis. Interleukin-2 (IL-2), an immune-stimulatory cytokine, is an alternative to standard treatment for people with AML to maintain the efficacy after consolidation therapy. Maintenance therapy is not an integral part of the standard treatment for AML. Studies have been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of IL-2 as maintenance therapy for people with AML in first CR, but the effect of IL-2 is not yet fully established.
To evaluate the efficacy and safety of IL-2 as maintenance therapy for children and adults with AML who have achieved first CR and have not relapsed.
We systematically searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (Cochrane Library 2015, Issue 8), MEDLINE (1950 to August 2015), EMBASE (1950 to August 2015), LILACS (1982 to August 2015), CBM (1978 to August 2015), relevant conference proceedings (2000 to 2015), and metaRegister of Controlled Trials (since inception to August 2015) of ongoing and unpublished trials. In addition, we screened the reference lists of relevant trials and reviews.
Eligible studies were randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing IL-2 with no treatment in people with AML who had achieved first CR and had not relapsed. We did not identify studies comparing IL-2 versus best supportive care or maintenance chemotherapy or studies comparing IL-2 plus maintenance chemotherapy versus maintenance chemotherapy alone.
Two review authors independently screened studies, extracted data with a predefined extraction form, and assessed risk of bias of included studies. We extracted data on the following outcomes: disease-free survival, overall survival, event-free survival, treatment-related mortality, adverse events, and quality of life. We measured the treatment effect on time-to-event outcomes and dichotomous outcomes with hazard ratio (HR) and risk ratio, respectively. We used inverse-variance method to combine HRs with fixed-effect model unless there was significant between-study heterogeneity.
We included nine RCTs with a total of 1665 participants, comparing IL-2 with no treatment. Six studies included adult participants, and three studies included both adults and children. However, the latter three studies did not report data for children, thus we were unable to conduct subgroup analysis of children. One Chinese study did not report any outcomes of interest for this review. We included six trials involving 1426 participants in the meta-analysis on disease-free survival, and included five trials involving 1355 participants in the meta-analysis on overall survival. There is no evidence for difference between IL-2 group and no-treatment group regarding disease-free survival (HR 0.95; 95% CI 0.86 to 1.06, P = 0.37; quality of evidence: low) or overall survival (HR 1.05; 95% CI 0.95 to 1.16, P = 0.35; quality of evidence: moderate). Based on one trial of 161 participants, IL-2 exerted no effect on event-free survival (HR 1.02; 95% CI 0.79 to 1.32, P = 0.88; quality of evidence: low). Adverse events (including thrombocytopenia, neutropenia, malaise/fatigue, and infection/fever) were more frequent in participants receiving IL-2, according to one trial of 308 participants. No mortality due to adverse events was reported. None of the included studies reported treatment-related mortality or quality of life.
There is no evidence for a difference between IL-2 maintenance therapy and no treatment with respect to disease-free survival or overall survival of people with AML in first CR; however, the quality of the evidence is moderate or low, and further research is likely or very likely to have an important impact on the estimate or our confidence in the estimate. Adverse events seem to be more frequent in participants treated with IL-2, but the quality of the evidence is very low and our confidence in the estimates is very uncertain. Thus, further prospective randomised trials are needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn on these issues.