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Br J Haematol. 2002 Jan;116(1):229-35.

A sequence of immuno-chemotherapy with Rituximab, mobilization of in vivo purged stem cells, high-dose chemotherapy and autotransplant is an effective and non-toxic treatment for advanced follicular and mantle cell lymphoma.

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Division of Hematology, University of Pavia, IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy.


Options for relapsed/refractory indolent lymphoma include chemotherapy, immunotherapy and high-dose therapy with autologous support. The best combination of these approaches, however, is not defined. We treated 10 patients with relapsed/refractory follicular (n = 7) or mantle cell lymphoma (n = 3) using chemotherapy, immunotherapy, high-dose therapy and autotransplant in a sequence of four phases, each designed to play a specific role in tumour eradication. After the debulking with VACOP-B (doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, etoposide, vincristine, prednisone, bleomycin) (phase 1), 9/10 patients responded but none achieved a molecular response. After the immuno-chemotherapy phase, which combined Rituximab with vincristine and cyclophosphamide, seven patients were in complete response (CR) and three in good partial response (PR), and all those with a molecular marker of disease showed a disappearance of the signal from marrow and blood. Phase 3, which coupled high-dose cytarabine with Rituximab, was effective in mobilizing an adequate number of progenitor cells that were polymerase chain reaction negative in all informative cases. Phase 4 consisted of high-dose therapy with autologous support followed by two doses of Rituximab. Autograft was performed in nine patients. The haematopoietic recovery was as expected. This sequence of chemotherapy, immuno-chemotherapy, stem cell mobilization with in vivo purging and autotransplant, organized in four blocks of treatment, was simple to administer and devoid of toxic effects. It permits rapid attainment of clinical and molecular response and enables the harvest of lymphoma-free peripheral blood progenitor cells even in heavily pretreated patients with relapsed or refractory disease.

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