The spectrum of use of rituximab in chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Alessandra Tedeschi, Eleonora Vismara, Francesca Ricci, Enrica Morra, Marco Montillo
Department of Hematology, Niguarda Ca’ Granda Hospital, Milano, Italy
Abstract: The monoclonal chimeric anti-CD20 antibody, rituximab, has considerably improved therapeutic outcome in B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Rituximab has limited clinical activity when used as a single agent. The combination of the monoclonal antibody with fludarabine-based regimens clearly demonstrated, in Phase II and randomized trials, an increase in clinical efficacy in previously untreated and pretreated patients. Furthermore the addition of rituximab enabled the eradication of minimal residual disease, which is correlated with the prognosis in a high proportion of patients. Although the combination of rituximab with fludarabine-based regimens increased myelosuppression and immunosuppression, incidence of infections did not increase. The benefit of adding rituximab to other purine analogs or other chemotherapeutic combination regimens has also been explored. Moreover there could be a role for achieving better quality of responses with the combination of different monoclonal antibodies, considering that they target different antigens and exert different mechanism of action. Although the role of rituximab as maintenance therapy in low grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas has been determined, the benefit and optimal schedule in chronic lymphocytic leukemia are still under investigation. This review brings together knowledge of the pharmacokinetics, mechanism of action and clinical use of rituximab in chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Keywords: rituximab, B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia, first-line treatment, refractory/relapsed
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