Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a refractory immune disorder with a significant risk of death. Although standard therapy has dramatically improved survival in HLH patients, approximately 30%, especially adults, show no response to current treatment strategies. This prospective study aimed to investigate the efficacy of liposomal doxorubicin treatment combined with etoposide and methylprednisolone (doxorubicin-etoposide-methylprednisolone; DEP) as a salvage therapy for adult refractory HLH. Adult patients who did not achieve at least partial response 2 weeks after initial standard HLH therapy were enrolled in this study between June 2013 and June 2014. Response to salvage therapy was assessed at 2 and 4 weeks after initiation of DEP therapy and patients were followed until death or until November 2014. Sixty-three refractory HLH patients were enrolled, including 29 cases of lymphoma-associated HLH, 22 cases of Epstein-Barr virus-associated HLH, and 4 cases of familial HLH. There were 8 cases with unknown underlying diseases. Seventeen cases (27.0%) achieved complete response and 31 cases (49.2%) achieved partial response. The overall response was 76.2% (48/63). Patients who showed no response to DEP died within 4 weeks after salvage therapy. Twenty-nine of the 48 patients who achieved partial or complete response survived to subsequent chemotherapy, allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, or splenectomy. Our study suggests that DEP regimen is an effective salvage regimen for adult refractory HLH, which can prolong patient survival as we continue to understand the responsible mechanisms and bridge the gap between HLH and its underlying diseases. This study was registered in the Chinese Clinical Trials Registry Platform (http://www.chictr.org.cn/) as ChiCTR-IPC-14005514.
© 2015 by The American Society of Hematology.