Background: Lymphoma is highly associated with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), which contributes to worse outcomes relative to resource-rich settings, and frequent failure of first-line chemotherapy. However, there are no second-line treatment descriptions for adults with relapsed or refractory lymphoma (RRL) in SSA.
Methods: We describe HIV+ and HIV- patients with RRL receiving salvage chemotherapy in Malawi. Patients were prospectively treated at a national teaching hospital in Lilongwe, with the modified EPIC regimen (etoposide, prednisolone, ifosfamide, cisplatin) between June 2013 and May 2016, after failing prior first-line chemotherapy.
Results: Among 21 patients (18 relapsed, 3 refractory), median age was 40 years (range 16-78), 12 (57%) were male. Thirteen patients (62%) were HIV+, of whom 12 (92%) were on antiretroviral therapy (ART) at initiation of salvage chemotherapy, with median CD4 cell count 139 cells/μL (range 12-529) and 11 (85%) with suppressed HIV RNA. Median number of EPIC cycles was 3 (range 1-6), and the commonest toxicity was grade 3/4 neutropenia in 19 patients (90%). Fifteen patients responded (3 complete, 12 partial, overall response rate 71%), but durations were brief. Median overall survival was 4.5 months [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.4-5.6]. However, three patients, all HIV+, experienced sustained remissions. Tolerability, response, and survival did not differ by HIV status.
Conclusions: The appropriateness and cost-effectiveness of this approach in severely resource-limited environments is uncertain, and multifaceted efforts to improve first-line lymphoma treatment should be emphasized, to reduce frequency with which patients require salvage chemotherapy.
Trial registration: NCT02835911. Registered 19 January 2016.
Keywords: Chemotherapy; HIV; Hodgkin lymphoma; Non-Hodgkin lymphoma; Sub-Saharan Africa.