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J Clin Oncol. 1993 Aug;11(8):1573-82.

EPOCH chemotherapy: toxicity and efficacy in relapsed and refractory non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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  • 1Medicine Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892.



Based on in vitro evidence that tumor cells are less resistant to prolonged exposure to low concentrations of the natural product class, compared with brief higher concentration exposure, we developed a chemotherapy regimen (etoposide, vincristine, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and prednisone [EPOCH]) in which the natural products are administered as a continuous infusion.


This is a phase II study of etoposide, vincristine, and doxorubicin, administered as a 96-hour continuous infusion, with intravenous (IV) bolus cyclophosphamide and oral prednisone (EPOCH) in 74 consecutive patients who relapsed from or failed to respond to most of the same drugs administered on a bolus schedule. Patients with aggressive lymphomas who achieved a good response after EPOCH were eligible to undergo bone marrow transplantation.


Patients with intermediate- or high-grade lymphoma comprised 76% of this series and 77% had stage IV disease. Seventy-one percent had previously received all of the drugs contained in the EPOCH regimen and 92% had received at least four of the drugs. Seventy patients were assessable for response, of whom 19 (27%) achieved a complete remission (CR) and 42 (60%) a partial remission (PR). Among 21 patients who had no response to prior chemotherapy, 15 (71%) responded, but only one achieved a CR. Patients who relapsed from an initial CR had a 100% response rate, with 76% CRs. With a median potential follow-up duration of 19 months, there was a 28% probability of being event-free at 1 year. Toxicity was primarily hematologic with neutropenia during 51% of cycles, but only a 17% incidence of febrile neutropenia. Gastrointestinal, neurologic, and cardiac toxicity were minimal.


EPOCH chemotherapy was well tolerated and highly effective in patients who were resistant to or relapsed from the same drugs administered on a bolus schedule, suggesting that continuous infusion of the natural drug component of this regimen is capable of partially reversing drug resistance and reducing toxicity. Dose-intensity (DI) was > or = that achieved in primary treatment regimens for aggressive lymphomas.

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