Background: Interferon alfa and cytotoxic drugs have synergistic effects in patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In 1986, we designed a clinical trial to evaluate the benefit of concomitant administration of recombinant interferon alfa with a regimen containing doxorubicin in patients with follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Methods: The trial involved 242 patients with advanced low-grade follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma selected on the basis of clinical, radiographic, and biologic criteria. All patients were treated with a regimen consisting of cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, teniposide, and prednisone (CHVP), given monthly for six cycles and then every two months for one year. After randomization, 123 patients also received interferon alfa-2b at a dosage of 5 million units three times weekly for 18 months. The remaining 119 patients received chemotherapy alone.
Results: As compared with the patients treated with CHVP only, the patients treated with CHVP plus interferon alfa had a higher overall rate of response (85 percent vs. 69 percent, P = 0.006), a longer median event-free survival (34 months vs. 19 months, P < 0.001), and a higher rate of survival at 3 years (86 percent vs. 69 percent, P = 0.02). Granulocyte toxicity was greater in the patients treated with CHVP plus interferon alfa than in those treated with CHVP alone. There were no treatment-related deaths. Interferon alfa had to be stopped because of toxic effects (fatigue and hepatitis) in 13 patients (11 percent).
Conclusions: The addition of interferon alfa to a regimen containing doxorubicin increased the rate of response, event-free survival, and overall survival in patients with advanced follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, without serious toxicity, although some patients were unable to tolerate the side effects.