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Blood. 2006 Jun 15;107(12):4658-62. Epub 2006 Feb 23.

Eradication of minimal residual disease in hairy cell leukemia.

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  • 1Department of Leukemia, University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Although the nucleoside analogs cladribine and pentostatin produce high response rates in patients with hairy cell leukemia (HCL), a significant number of patients eventually relapse. Several studies have demonstrated that patients with complete remission (CR) have a longer disease-free survival. Therefore, strategies to improve on the initial response to nucleoside analog therapy are likely to be beneficial, at least for a proportion of patients. We have treated 13 patients with newly diagnosed HCL (n = 11) or after failure of one prior chemotherapy (n = 2) with cladribine (5.6 mg/m(2) given intravenously over 2 hours daily for 5 days) followed by 8 weekly doses of rituximab (375 mg/m(2)). All patients achieved a CR and minimal residual disease (MRD) assessed by consensus primer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or flow cytometry was eradicated in 11 (92%) of 12 and in 12 (92%) of 13 of patients, respectively. There was no decline in the absolute CD4 and CD8 lymphocyte number after rituximab. We conclude that eradication of MRD in HCL is possible. Whether this leads to a reduced risk of relapse would need to be evaluated in a larger number of patients and with longer follow-up. Disease characteristics may potentially be used to identify patients that are more likely to benefit from such additional therapy.

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