Differentiation syndrome (DS) can be a life-threatening complication in patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) undergoing induction therapy with all- trans retinoic acid (ATRA). Detailed knowl- edge about DS has remained limited. We present an analysis of the incidence, char- acteristics, prognostic factors, and out- come of 739 APL patients treated with ATRA plus idarubicin in 2 consecutive trials (Programa Espanol de Tratamientos en Hematologíc [PETHEMA] LPA96 and LPA99). Overall, 183 patients (24.8%) ex- perienced DS, 93 with a severe form (12.6%) and 90 with a moderate form (12.2%). Severe but not moderate DS was associated with an increase in mortality. A bimodal incidence of DS was observed, with peaks occurring in the first and third weeks after the start of ATRA therapy. A multivariate analysis indicated that a WBC count greater than 5 x 109/L and an abnor- mal serum creatinine level correlated with an increased risk of developing severe DS. Patients receiving systematic pred- nisone prophylaxis (LPA99 trial) in con- trast to those receiving selective prophy- laxis with dexamethasone (LPA96 trial) had a lower incidence of severe DS. Pa- tients developing severe DS showed a reduced 7-year relapse-free survival in the LPA96 trial (60% vs 85%, P = .003), but this difference was not apparent in the LPA99 trial. © 2009 by The American Society of Hematology.