Advanced-stage follicular lymphoma (FL) and mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) cannot be cured using conventional chemotherapy. Fludarabine, the most widely used purine analog, exhibits a particularly high level of activity against small lymphocytic lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Numerous studies have investigated the efficacy of fludarabine as a single agent or in combination with other cytostatic compounds in the treatment of FL and MCL. Hematologic toxicity is the most commonly observed adverse event in patients treated with fludarabine, but serious infectious complications are relatively rare. Fludarabine monotherapy has proven to be particularly effective in the treatment of FL; however, complete responses (CRs) are observed in only approximately 20-40% of all cases. In contrast, combinations containing fludarabine and anthracyclines or alkylating agents have yielded superior response rates and longer periods of progression-free survival (PFS), and the addition of the anti-CD20 antibody rituximab appears to yield even better results. In a randomized trial, an immunochemotherapy regimen consisting of a fludarabine-containing combination and rituximab resulted in superior remission and survival rates compared with the fludarabine-containing combination alone. In summary, fludarabine has proven to be a safe and effective agent in the treatment of indolent lymphoma. In particular, combinations containing fludarabine, anthracyclines and/or alkylating agents, and rituximab have yielded remarkable CR and PFS rates. Consequently, current research efforts have focused on the use of fludarabine-containing combinations in the first-line treatment of FL and MCL.
Copyright 2004 American Cancer Society.