NCCN guidelines highlight ‘complicated’ treatment for pediatric lymphomas


The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has released its first set of guidelines for managing pediatric aggressive mature B-cell lymphomas.

The guidelines highlight the complexities of treating pediatric Burkitt lymphoma (BL) and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), as recommendations include a range of multiagent regimens for different patient groups at various time points.

“The treatment of this disease is relatively complicated,” said Kimberly J. Davies, MD, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and chair of the guidelines panel. “The chemotherapy regimens have a lot of drugs, a lot of nuances to how they’re supposed to be given. These guidelines delineate that treatment and help the provider … make sure they are delivering the treatment a patient needs.”

The guidelines recommend different regimens according to a patient’s risk group, but the same treatment approach should be used for patients with BL and those with DLBCL.

Matthew Barth, MD, of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Matthew Barth

“The biggest difference between pediatric and adult patients is that pediatric patients are more uniformly treated, regardless of what type of aggressive B-cell lymphoma they have,” said Matthew Barth, MD, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y., and vice chair of the NCCN guidelines panel.

“Adults with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and Burkitt lymphoma are generally treated with different chemotherapy regimens, but, in pediatrics, we use the same treatment regimens for both diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and Burkitt lymphoma,” he added.

As an example, the new guidelines recommend that pediatric patients with low-risk BL/DLBCL receive the POG9219 regimen (N Engl J Med. 1997 Oct 30;337[18]:1259-66) or FAB/LMB96 regimen A (Br J Haematol. 2008 Jun;141[6]:840-7) as induction, or they should be enrolled in a clinical trial.

On the other hand, induction for high-risk pediatric BL/DLBCL patients should consist of rituximab and a chemotherapy regimen used in the COG ANHL1131 trial. The recommendation to incorporate rituximab in high-risk pediatric patients is based on results from that trial (J Clin Oncol. 2016 May 20. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2016.34.15_suppl.10507).

“Until recent clinical trial data was available, we weren’t really sure how to incorporate rituximab into the treatment of pediatric patients with mature B-cell lymphomas,” Dr. Barth said. “We now have evidence that rituximab is clearly beneficial for patients who are in higher-risk groups.”

Dr. Barth and Dr. Davies both noted that pediatric BL and DLBCL have high cure rates. Long-term survival rates range from about 80% to more than 90%, according to the American Cancer Society. However, the patients who do relapse or progress can be difficult to treat.

“We have quite good cure rates at this point in time, which is a great success, but that means that a very small population of patients don’t respond to initial therapy, and … it’s hard to know what the best treatment for those patients is,” Dr. Davies said.

She noted that studies are underway to determine if immunotherapies, including chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, might improve outcomes in patients with relapsed or refractory disease.

For now, the NCCN guidelines recommend clinical trial enrollment for relapsed/refractory patients. Alternatively, these patients can receive additional chemotherapy, and responders can proceed to transplant. Patients who don’t achieve at least a partial response may go on to a clinical trial or receive best supportive care.

Dr. Davies and Dr. Barth reported having no conflicts of interest.

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