Radioimmunotherapy with yttrium-90 ibritumomab tiuxetan for patients with relapsed CD20+ B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2002 Aug;3(4):275-82. doi: 10.1007/s11864-002-0027-y.


The clinical development and US Food and Drug Administration approval in 1997 of the monoclonal anti-CD20 antibody rituximab have been major treatment advances for patients with B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). Rituximab produces responses in approximately 50% of cases of relapsed, low grade NHL. Most of these responses are partial remissions; cure remains elusive. One way to enhance the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies is to chelate radionuclides such as yttrium-90 ((90)Y) to the antibody. ( 90)Y is a high-energy, beta-emitting radioisotope that delivers most of its radiation over a path length of 2 to 5 mm. Therefore, the antibody delivers, or targets, the radiation only to CD20+ cells, sparing normal cells from the radiation. Ibritumomab is the murine anti-CD20 antibody that was engineered to develop the human chimeric antibody rituximab. Tiuxetan is a linker/chelator that is attached to the antibody to form ibritumomab tiuxetan (Zevalin; IDEC Pharmaceuticals, San Diego, CA). Zevalin can be reacted with (111)indium ((111)In) for imaging and (90)Y for therapy. Phase I studies of Zevalin have determined that patients with a baseline platelet count greater than 150,000 10(6)/L receive 0.4 mCi/kg. Patients with a platelet count of 100 to 149,000 10(6)/L should receive 0.3 mCi/kg. Zevalin has a higher overall response rate (ORR) than its cold antibody counterpart rituximab, as demonstrated in two separate clinical trials. The first trial (IDEC 106-04) randomized 143 rituximab-naïve patients with relapsed NHL to receive rituximab or Zevalin. The ORR for Zevalin was 80% compared with 56% for rituximab (P = 0.002). The second trial (IDEC 106-06) tested the efficacy of Zevalin in patients who were rituxan-refractory; the ORR was 74%. The main toxicity of Zevalin was reversible myelosuppression. These studies indicate that radiolabeled anti-CD20 antibodies can produce a higher ORR than rituximab. Single-dose Zevalin is another treatment alternative for patients with relapsed low grade NHL. It is well-tolerated even by older adults. The exact role of Zevalin in the therapy of NHL is undetermined. New studies are underway to explore whether patients can safely receive a second dose of Zevalin and to combine Zevalin with high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell rescue. The outcome of these studies will be helpful in deciding how best to integrate this new modality into the treatment paradigm of NHL.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antigens, CD20 / immunology*
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • Clinical Trials, Phase III as Topic
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / immunology
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / therapy*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / therapy*
  • Radioimmunotherapy / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rituximab
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes / therapeutic use*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antigens, CD20
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes
  • Rituximab
  • ibritumomab tiuxetan