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Blood. 1998 Nov 15;92(10):3578-81.

Prospective randomized multicenter clinical trial on the use of interferon -2a plus acitretin versus interferon -2a plus PUVA in patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma stages I and II.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany, USA.


Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) constitutes a malignant proliferative disease involving mostly CD4(+) T cells arising in the skin. Because of the lack of curative treatment options, interferons (IFN) have been introduced into the therapy of CTCL. Although effective even in advanced disease, response rates were about 50% and the duration of response was short. To improve the results of interferon monotherapy, combinations of IFN with oral photochemotherapy (PUVA) or retinoids were investigated in nonrandomized trials showing higher response rates. We have therefore conducted this prospective randomized multicenter trial to compare these two combination therapies, ie, IFN plus PUVA and IFN plus acitretin. IFN -2a was administered at 9 MU three times weekly subcutaneously in both groups, with lower increasing doses during the first week. Photochemotherapy was applied after oral intake of 8-methoxypsoralen (0.6 mg/kg body weight) 5x weekly during the first 4 weeks, 3x weekly from weeks 5 through 23, and 2x weekly from weeks 24 through 48, with escalating doses beginning with 0.25 J/cm2. Twenty-five milligrams of acitretin was administered daily during the first week, and 50 mg was administered from weeks 2 through 48. Of 98 patients randomized in this study, 82 stage I and II patients were evaluable: 40 in the IFN+PUVA group and 42 in the IFN+acitretin group. With 70% complete remissions in the IFN+PUVA group, this treatment was significantly superior to the IFN+acitretin group with only 38.1% complete remissions. Time to response was significantly shorter in the IFN+PUVA group, with 18.6 weeks compared with 21.8 weeks in the IFN+acitretin group. Side effects were mostly mild to moderate and did not differ significantly in both treatment groups. However, there were more adverse events leading to study discontinuation in the IFN+acitretin group. Based on these findings, we conclude that IFN plus oral photochemotherapy is superior to IFN plus acitretin, inducing more complete remissions in patients with CTCL stages I and II.

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