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Blood. 2004 Jun 15;103(12):4416-23. Epub 2004 Feb 19.

Prolonged treatment with rituximab in patients with follicular lymphoma significantly increases event-free survival and response duration compared with the standard weekly x 4 schedule.

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Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland, Ospedale San Giovanni, 6500 Bellinzona, Switzerland.


The potential benefits of extended rituximab treatment have been investigated in a randomized trial comparing the standard schedule with prolonged treatment in 202 patients with newly diagnosed or refractory/relapsed follicular lymphoma (FL). All patients received standard treatment (rituximab 375 mg/m(2) weekly x 4). In 185 evaluable patients, the overall response rate was 67% in chemotherapy-naive patients and 46% in pretreated cases (P <.01). Patients responding or with stable disease at week 12 (n = 151) were randomized to no further treatment or prolonged rituximab administration (375 mg/m(2) every 2 months for 4 times). At a median follow-up of 35 months, the median event-free survival (EFS) was 12 months in the no further treatment versus 23 months in the prolonged treatment arm (P =.02), the difference being particularly notable in chemotherapy-naive patients (19 vs 36 months; P =.009) and in patients responding to induction treatment (16 vs 36 months; P =.004). The number of t(14;18)-positive cells in peripheral blood (P =.0035) and in bone marrow (P =.0052) at baseline was predictive for clinical response. Circulating normal B lymphocytes and immunoglobulin M (IgM) plasma levels decreased for a significantly longer time after prolonged treatment, but the incidence of adverse events was not increased. In patients with FL, the administration of 4 additional doses of rituximab at 8-week intervals significantly improves the EFS.

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