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ASH: Biologic Agents May Improve Lymphoma Outcomes

Adding agents to standard chemotherapy can improve survival and reduce side effects

MONDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Minimally toxic biologic agents can either add to the effectiveness or reduce the toxicity of standard chemotherapy treatments for certain lymphomas, according to research presented this week at the 48th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) in Orlando.

Christian Buske, M.D., of Klinikum Grosshadern in Munich, Germany, and colleagues randomly assigned 221 follicular lymphoma patients to receive either CHOP (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine and prednisone) or R-CHOP (rituximab added to CHOP). Although side effects were similar in both groups, the investigators found that four-year progression-free survival was significantly higher in the R-CHOP group than in the CHOP group (62.2 percent versus 27.9 percent).

Kieron Dunleavy, M.D., of the U.S. National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues treated 17 Burkitt lymphoma patients -- some of them HIV-positive -- with dose-adjusted EPOCH-rituximab (DA-EPOCH-R). Only 10 percent of treatment cycles required hospitalization for low blood counts and fever, and all 17 patients achieved remission by 24 months, leading the researchers to conclude that DA-EPOCH-R is less toxic and just as effective as standard chemotherapy.

"These new treatments are fulfilling the promise of research based on improved understanding of the cancer cell," ASH spokesman Charles A. Linker, M.D., of the University of California in San Francisco, said in a statement. "We are able to offer treatments that both improve outcomes and preserve quality of life."

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