Thromboembolism is a serious complication of induction therapy for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. We prospectively compared the efficacy and safety of antithrombotic interventions in the consecutive leukemia trials ALL-BFM 2000 and AIEOP-BFM ALL 2009. Patients with newly diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (n=949, age 1 to 18 years) were randomized to receive low-dose unfractionated heparin, prophylactic low molecular weight heparin (enoxaparin) or activity-adapted antithrombin throughout induction therapy. The primary objective of the study was to determine whether enoxaparin or antithrombin reduces the incidence of thromboembolism as compared to unfractionated heparin. The principal safety outcome was hemorrhage; leukemia outcome was a secondary endpoint. Thromboembolism occurred in 42 patients (4.4%). Patients assigned to unfractionated heparin had a higher risk of thromboembolism (8.0%) compared with those randomized to enoxaparin (3.5%; P=0.011) or antithrombin (1.9%; P<0.001). The proportion of patients who refused antithrombotic treatment as allocated was 3% in the unfractionated heparin or antithrombin arms, and 33% in the enoxaparin arm. Major hemorrhage occurred in eight patients (no differences between the groups). The 5-year event-free survival was 80.9±2.2% among patients cenassigned to antithrombin compared to 85.9±2.0% in the unfractionated heparin group (P=0.06), and 86.2±2.0% in the enoxaparin group (P=0.10). In conclusion, prophylactic use of antithrombin or enoxaparin significantly reduced thromboembolism. Despite the considerable number of patients rejecting the assigned treatment with subcutaneous injections, the result remains unambiguous. Thromboprophylaxis - for the present time primarily with enoxaparin - can be recommended for children and adolescents with acute lymphoblastic leukemia during induction therapy. Whether and how antithrombin may affect leukemia outcome remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)756-765
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 31.03.2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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