We report a randomized prospective phase 3 study (CLL7), designed to evaluate the efficacy of fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab (FCR) in patients with an early-stage high-risk chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Eight hundred patients with untreated-stage Binet A disease were enrolled as intent-to-treat population and assessed for four prognostic markers: lymphocyte doubling time <12 months, serum thymidine kinase >10 U/L, unmutated IGHV genes, and unfavorable cytogenetics (del(11q)/del(17p)/trisomy 12). Two hundred and one patients with ≥2 risk features were classified as high-risk CLL and 1:1 randomized to receive either immediate therapy with 6xFCR (Hi-FCR, 100 patients), or to be observed according to standard of care (Hi-W&W, 101 patients). The overall response rate after early FCR was 92.7%. Common adverse events were hematological toxicities and infections (61.0%/41.5% of patients, respectively). After median observation time of 55.6 (0-99.2) months, event-free survival was significantly prolonged in Hi-FCR compared with Hi-W&W patients (median not reached vs. 18.5 months, p < 0.001). There was no significant overall survival benefit for high-risk patients receiving early FCR therapy (5-year OS 82.9% in Hi-FCR vs. 79.9% in Hi-W&W, p = 0.864). In conclusion, although FCR is efficient to induce remissions in the Binet A high-risk CLL, our data do not provide evidence that alters the current standard of care "watch and wait" for these patients.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00275054.