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Blood. 1998 Aug 15;92(4):1184-90.

Anti-idiotype antibodies can induce long-term complete remissions in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma without eradicating the malignant clone.

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Division of Medical Oncology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA94305-5306, USA.


The immunoglobulin on the surface of B-cell lymphomas can be a tumor-specific target for monoclonal antibody therapy. Between 1981 and 1993, 45 individuals with low grade B-cell lymphoma were treated with 52 courses of custom-made anti-idiotype antibodies. The antibodies were used either alone or in combination with alpha-interferon, chlorambucil, or interleukin-2 (IL-2). The majority of these patients responded to treatment, with a 66% overall and 18% complete response rate. Six patients (13%) experienced prolonged complete remissions, five of which are ongoing from 4 to 10 years after therapy and are the subject of this report. We asked whether residual lymphoma could be found in these patients with prolonged remissions. We performed enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) assays for idiotype protein or anti-idiotype antibodies in serum. Blood and bone marrow samples were examined by flow cytometry for idiotype positive cells, and by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for clonal gene rearrangements of immunoglobulin CDR3 sequences or t(14;18) translocations. Using these sensitive and specific tests it was possible to detect very low levels of residual lymphoma in five of these patients who had been in clinical remission for 3 to 8 years before this evaluation. These five have continued without recurrence for up to 3 years since. Thus, we have found a pattern of residual inactive disease in patients treated with anti-idiotype antibodies. The biology of follicular lymphoma evidently includes the potential for tumor dormancy after therapies with varied mechanisms of action, resulting in clinical inactivity for many years. Thus, long-term control of the disease is possible at a clinical level despite persistence of the malignant clone.

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