How we treat Waldenström's macroglobulinemia

Meletios A Dimopoulos, Giampaolo Merlini, Veronique Leblond, Athanasios Anagnostopoulos, Raymond Alexanian
Haematologica 2005, 90 (1): 117-25
Waldenström's macroglobulinemia (WM) is a lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma which produces monoclonal immunoglobulin M (IgM). Over the last decade, new treatment modalites have been developed for the management of this disorder. Our objective is to provide treatment recommendations for WM. A review of published reports was facilitated by a MEDLINE computer search and by a manual search of Index Medicus. Other sources included abstracts and conference proceedings. Most patients with WM who are diagnosed by chance without symptoms should not be treated. Initiation of treatment should not be based on level of serum monoclonal protein per se. The presence of cytopenia, significant adenopathy or organomegaly, symptomatic hyperviscosity, severe neuropathy or cryoglobulinemia indicates the need for treatment. The main choices for primary treatment of symptomatic patients with WM include alkylating agents, the nucleoside analogs fludarabine or cladribine and the monoclonal antibody rituximab or combinations of these programs. There are no data from prospective randomized studies to recommend the use of one program over another. Nevertheless, the need for rapid disease control may favor the use of nucleoside analogs, whereas the presence of significant cytopenia may favor rituximab. High dose therapy with autologous stem cell transplantation may induce responses even in patients with resistance to all three class of agents. It may be prudent to avoid nucleoside analogs in patients who are candidates for high dose therapy. Despite the lack of randomized trials, a rational approach to the treatment of patients with WM is possible. Several factors, including the presence of cytopenias, need for rapid disease control, candidacy for autologous stem cell transplantation, age and co-morbid conditions, should be taken into consideration when choosing the most appropriate primary treatment.

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