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      Role of rituximab in first-line treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia

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          Abstract

          Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a biologically heterogeneous illness that primarily afflicts the elderly. For many decades, the initial therapy for most patients requiring treatment was limited to single-agent alkylator therapy. Within the last two decades, we have seen remarkable progress in understanding the biology of CLL and the development of more effective treatment strategies that have employed monoclonal antibodies, such as rituximab (anti-CD20). Furthermore, recognition of the synergy between fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab (FCR) prompted investigators to explore the clinical activity of FCR in Phase II and III trials in patients with relapsed/refractory or previously untreated CLL. On the basis of these findings, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved rituximab in combination with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide for the treatment of patients with relapsed/refractory or previously untreated CD20-postive CLL. Recent data from a randomized Phase III trial has confirmed improved overall survival with FCR in patients with previously untreated CLL. However, FCR is not for everyone. More tolerable regimens using rituximab for the elderly and less fit patients are being pursued in clinical trials. Recent Phase II trials have explored potentially less myelosuppressive approaches by using lower doses of fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, replacing fludarabine with pentostatin, and combining rituximab with chlorambucil. Furthermore new biomarkers predictive of early disease progression have prompted investigators to explore the benefits of early treatment with rituximab combined with other agents. In addition to the proven utility of rituximab as a frontline agent for CLL, rituximab has a favorable toxicity profile both as a single agent and in combination with chemotherapy. The majority of adverse events are Grade 1 and 2 infusion-related reactions (fevers, chills, and rigors) and occur with the first dose of rituximab. The improved tolerability observed with second and subsequent infusions allows for shorter infusion times. Rituximab’s proven activity and favorable toxicity profile has made it an ideal agent for expanding treatment options for patients with CLL, the majority of whom are elderly.

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          Most cited references 59

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          Rituximab chimeric anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody therapy for relapsed indolent lymphoma: half of patients respond to a four-dose treatment program.

          The CD20 antigen is expressed on more than 90% of B-cell lymphomas. It is appealing for targeted therapy, because it does not shed or modulate. A chimeric monoclonal antibody more effectively mediates host effector functions and is itself less immunogenic than are murine antibodies. This was a multiinstitutional trial of the chimeric anti-CD20 antibody, IDEC-C2B8. Patients with relapsed low grade or follicular lymphoma received an outpatient treatment course of IDEC-C2B8 375 mg/m2 intravenously weekly for four doses. From 31 centers, 166 patients were entered. Of this intent-to-treat group, 48% responded. With a median follow-up duration of 11.8 months, the projected median time to progression for responders is 13.0 months. Serum antibody levels were sustained longer after the fourth infusion than after the first, and were higher in responders and in patients with lower tumor burden. The majority of adverse events occurred during the first infusion and were grade 1 or 2; fever and chills were the most common events. Only 12% of patients had grade 3 and 3% grade 4 toxicities. A human antichimeric antibody was detected in only one patient. The response rate of 48% with IDEC-C2B8 is comparable to results with single-agent cytotoxic chemotherapy. Toxicity was mild. Attention needs to be paid to the rate of antibody infusion, with titration according to toxicity. Further investigation of this agent is warranted, including its use in conjunction with standard chemotherapy.
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            Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy after rituximab therapy in HIV-negative patients: a report of 57 cases from the Research on Adverse Drug Events and Reports project.

            Rituximab improves outcomes for persons with lymphoproliferative disorders and is increasingly used to treat immune-mediated illnesses. Recent reports describe 2 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and 1 with rheumatoid arthritis who developed progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) after rituximab treatment. We reviewed PML case descriptions among patients treated with rituximab from the Food and Drug Administration, the manufacturer, physicians, and a literature review from 1997 to 2008. Overall, 52 patients with lymphoproliferative disorders, 2 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, 1 patient with rheumatoid arthritis, 1 patient with an idiopathic autoimmune pancytopenia, and 1 patient with immune thrombocytopenia developed PML after treatment with rituximab and other agents. Other treatments included hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (7 patients), purine analogs (26 patients), or alkylating agents (39 patients). One patient with an autoimmune hemolytic anemia developed PML after treatment with corticosteroids and rituximab, and 1 patient with an autoimmune pancytopenia developed PML after treatment with corticosteroids, azathioprine, and rituximab. Median time from last rituximab dose to PML diagnosis was 5.5 months. Median time to death after PML diagnosis was 2.0 months. The case-fatality rate was 90%. Awareness is needed of the potential for PML among rituximab-treated persons.
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              Early results of a chemoimmunotherapy regimen of fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab as initial therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

              Fludarabine and cyclophosphamide (FC), which are active in treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), are synergistic with the monoclonal antibody rituximab in vitro in lymphoma cell lines. A chemoimmunotherapy program consisting of fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab (FCR) was developed with the goal of increasing the complete remission (CR) rate in previously untreated CLL patients to >/= 50%. We conducted a single-arm study of FCR as initial therapy in 224 patients with progressive or advanced CLL. Flow cytometry was used to measure residual disease. Results and safety were compared with a previous regimen using FC. The median age was 58 years; 75 patients (33%) had Rai stage III to IV disease. The CR rate was 70% (95% CI, 63% to 76%), the nodular partial remission rate was 10%, and the partial remission rate was 15%, for an overall response rate of 95% (95% CI, 92% to 98%). Two thirds of patients evaluated with flow cytometry had less than 1% CD5- and CD19-coexpressing cells in bone marrow after therapy. Grade 3 to 4 neutropenia occurred during 52% of courses; major and minor infections were seen in 2.6% and 10% of courses, respectively. One third of the 224 patients had >/= one episode of infection, and 10% had a fever of unknown origin. FCR produced a high CR rate in previously untreated CLL. Most patients had no detectable disease on flow cytometry at the end of therapy. Time to treatment failure analysis showed that 69% of patients were projected to be failure free at 4 years (95% CI, 57% to 81%).
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Ther Clin Risk Manag
                Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management
                Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management
                Dove Medical Press
                1176-6336
                1178-203X
                2011
                2011
                22 December 2010
                : 7
                : 1-11
                Affiliations
                Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Gautam Borthakur, Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Box 0428, Houston, TX 77030, Tel +1 713 563 1586, Fax +1 713 794 4297, Email gborthak@ 123456mdanderson.org
                Article
                tcrm-7-001
                10.2147/TCRM.S5855
                3039008
                21339937
                © 2011 Bryan and Borthakur, publisher and licensee Dove Medical Press Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Review

                Medicine

                fludarabine, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, pentostatin, elderly, chlorambucil, tolerability, rituximab

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