Risk-adapted bendamustine + rituximab is a tolerable treatment alternative for elderly patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia: a regional real-world report on 141 consecutive Swedish patients

Br J Haematol. 2020 Nov;191(3):426-432. doi: 10.1111/bjh.17032. Epub 2020 Aug 10.


Bendamustine + rituximab (BR) is the current first-line standard-of-care for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) in fit patients aged 66-70 years, whereas chlorambucil + CD20 antibody is recommended in older patients with co-morbidities. This retrospective real-world study investigated whether risk-adapted BR was safe and effective in elderly patients. All 141 CLL patients in the Stockholm region (diagnosed from 2007 to 2016, identified from regional registries) who had received BR as first (n = 84) or later line (n = 57) were analysed. Median age was 72 years, 49% had Binet stage C, 40% had Cumulative Illness Rating Scale (CIRS) score ≥ 6, 20% Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) score 2. None had del(17p). Only 15% of patients aged ≥80 years received full-dose bendamustine and 65% of them postponed rituximab until cycle 2. Corresponding numbers in patients 73-79 years were 21% and 36% and in <73 years, 63% and 33%. Overall response rate was 83% (first line) and 67% (later line) (P < 0·022) equally distributed between age subsets. ECOG, immunoglobulin heavy chain variable region (IGHV) mutational status and cytogenetics, but not treatment line and age, were significant factors on progression-free survival (PFS) in multivariate analysis. Infections and neutropenia/thrombocytopenia (≥grade 3) were similar across age subgroups. In summary, BR was well tolerated even in patients ≥80 years, with similar efficacy and safety as in less old patients, provided that carefully adapted dosing was applied.

Keywords: CLL; bendamustine; outcome; real-world; rituximab.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Bendamustine Hydrochloride / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / diagnosis
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / epidemiology
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rituximab / administration & dosage
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Rituximab
  • Bendamustine Hydrochloride