High response rate and durable remissions following fludarabine and rituximab combination therapy for chronic cold agglutinin disease

Sigbjørn Berentsen, Ulla Randen, Anne Marita Vågan, Henrik Hjorth-Hansen, Anders Vik, Jakob Dalgaard, Eva-Marie Jacobsen, Aud S Thoresen, Klaus Beiske, Geir E Tjønnfjord
Blood 2010 October 28, 116 (17): 3180-4
Most patients diagnosed with primary chronic cold agglutinin disease (CAD) have a clonal lymphoproliferative bone marrow disorder. Treatment with rituximab is the only well-documented effective therapy, leading to 45%-60% partial responses (PR). Complete responses (CR) are rare, and median response duration is only 11 months. In a prospective multicenter trial, 29 patients received rituximab 375 mg/m(2) on days 1, 29, 57 and 85; and fludarabine orally, 40 mg/m(2) on days 1-5, 29-34, 57-61 and 85-89. Twenty-two patients (76%) responded, 6 (21%) achieving CR and 16 (55%) PR. Among 10 patients nonresponsive to rituximab monotherapy, 1 achieved CR and 6 PR. Median increase in hemoglobin level was 3.1 g/dL among the responders and 4.0 g/dL in those who achieved CR. Lower quartile of response duration was not reached after 33 months. Estimated median response duration was more than 66 months. Grade 3-4 hematologic toxicity occurred in 12 patients (41%). In conclusion, fludarabine and rituximab combination therapy is very efficient in patients with CAD. Toxicity may be a concern, and benefits should be carefully weighed against risks in very old and comorbid patients. It remains to be established whether the combination should be first-line or an efficient second-line therapy in CAD patients requiring treatment.

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