From the Journals

Bendamustine/rituximab combo proves viable for comorbid CLL



A combination of bendamustine and rituximab generated an 88% overall response rate and 96% overall survival rate at 2 years among patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in a study of 83 patients aged 53-83 years.

Although combined fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab has demonstrated success in younger patients with CLL, this therapy is often considered too aggressive for the majority of CLL patients, who tend to be older and have multiple comorbidities, wrote Martin Špacek, MD, of Charles University and General University Hospital in Prague and his colleagues.

The alternative treatment combination of bendamustine and rituximab (BR) has not been well studied in patients with comorbidities, they said.

In a study published in Leukemia Research, the researchers enrolled 83 previously untreated adults with progressive CLL. The average age of the participants was 71 years, and 61% were men. The median creatinine clearance for the study population was 65 mL/min, and all patients had comorbidities, defined as scores greater than 6 on the Cumulative Illness Rating Scale (CIRS).

All patients were prescribed 90 mg/m2 bendamustine on days 1 and 2 combined with 375 mg/m2 rituximab on day 0 of the first course, and 500 mg/m2 rituximab on day 1 during subsequent courses every 28 days for a maximum of six cycles.

The overall response rate to BR was 88.0%, with a complete response rate of 20.5%. At 2 years, progression-free survival and overall survival rates were 69.9% and 96.2%, respectively.

A total of 51 patients (61.4%) experienced at least one grade 3 or 4 adverse event. The most common hematologic effects were neutropenia (40 patients), thrombocytopenia (14 patients), and anemia (8 patients). The most common nonhematologic effects were grade 3– or grade 4–level infections in 12 patients. Six patients developed severe skin rash.

Additionally, one patient developed sepsis during treatment and died after the first course of therapy.

“Age and CIRS failed to predict any severe toxicities or BR dose reduction,” the researchers noted.

The findings support data from previous studies and represent the largest study of CLL patients with significant comorbidities to be treated with BR, the researchers said.

More prospective research is needed, but the results demonstrate that “chemoimmunotherapy with BR is an effective therapeutic option with manageable toxicity for the initial treatment of CLL patients with significant comorbidities,” the investigators wrote.

The study was supported by the Ministry of Health, Czech Republic, the Charles University Progres program, and the Czech CLL Study Group. Researchers reported honoraria and travel grants from Mundipharma and Roche.

SOURCE: Spacek M et al. Leuk Res. 2019;79:17-21.

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