Drug Improves Survival in Follicular Lymphoma Patients

-- A. Agrawal, PhD

Thursday, February 12, 2009

THURSDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Maintenance therapy with rituximab improves survival in patients with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma, according to research published online Feb. 10 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Liat Vidal, M.D., from Rabin Medical Center in Petah-Tikva, Israel, and colleagues reviewed the scientific and medical literature and identified five randomized controlled trials comparing rituximab maintenance therapy with observation or treatment at relapse (no maintenance therapy) in patients with follicular lymphoma. The trials consisted of 1,143 adult patients, where 985 had data on overall survival available.

The researchers performed a meta-analysis and showed that rituximab maintenance therapy was associated with significantly better survival (hazard ratio for death 0.60). The survival benefit was limited to patients with relapsed or refractory disease (hazard ratio for death 0.58), not previously untreated patients (hazard ratio for death 0.68), the report indicates. However, patients treated with rituximab had a higher rate of infection-related adverse events (hazard ratio 1.99), the investigators found.

"These results suggest that maintenance therapy with rituximab, either as four weekly infusions every six months or as a single infusion every two to three months, should be added to standard therapy for patients with relapsed or refractory (i.e., previously treated) follicular lymphoma after successful induction therapy," Vidal and colleagues conclude. "The higher rate of infections with rituximab therapy should be taken into consideration when making treatment decisions."

Two of the study authors have a financial relationship with Roche.

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