Purpose: In an update of the randomized, open-label, phase III European Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) Elderly trial (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00209209), published in 2012, we aimed to confirm results on long-term outcome focusing on efficacy and safety of long-term use of rituximab maintenance.
Patients and methods: Five hundred sixty patients with newly diagnosed MCL underwent a first random assignment between rituximab, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone (R-CHOP) and rituximab, fludarabine, and cyclophosphamide (R-FC) induction, followed by a second random assignment in 316 responders between rituximab and interferon alfa maintenance, to be continued until progression. We compared progression-free survival from the second randomization and overall survival (OS) from the first or second randomizations.
Results: After a median follow-up time of 7.6 years, the previously described difference in OS between the induction arms persisted (median, 6.4 years after R-CHOP [n = 280] v 3.9 years after R-FC [n = 280]; P = .0054). Patients responding to R-CHOP had median progression-free survival and OS times of 5.4 and 9.8 years, respectively, when randomly assigned to rituximab (n = 87), compared with 1.9 years (P < .001) and 7.1 years (P = .0026), respectively, when randomly assigned to interferon alfa (n = 97). In 58% and 32% of patients treated with R-CHOP, rituximab maintenance was still ongoing 2 and 5 years from start of maintenance, respectively. After R-FC, rituximab maintenance was associated with an unexpectedly high cumulative incidence of death in remission (22% at 5 years). Toxicity of rituximab maintenance was low after R-CHOP (grade 3-4 leukopenia or infection < 5%) but more prominent in patients on rituximab maintenance after R-FC, in whom grade 3-4 leukopenia (up to 40%) and infections were frequent (up to 15%).
Conclusion: The excellent results of R-CHOP followed by rituximab maintenance until progression for older patients with MCL persisted in a mature follow-up. Prolongation of rituximab maintenance beyond 2 years is effective and safe.