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Phase II study of bendamustine in combination with rituximab as first-line treatment in patients 80 years or older with aggressive B-cell lymphomas.

BACKGROUND: Rituximab plus combination chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone (R-CHOP) is widely recommended for the treatment of aggressive B-cell lymphomas. However, there is very little information regarding the management of elderly patients.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: We initiated a phase II study of first-line treatment with rituximab and bendamustine in elderly patients (≥80 years) with aggressive B-cell lymphomas who were not eligible for R-CHOP or who did not agree to aggressive treatment. The treatment decision on eligibility for R-CHOP was left to discretion of the physicians.

RESULTS: Fourteen patients with a median age of 85 years (range 80-95 years) were included. The age-adjusted international prognostic index was zero in five patients, one in three patients, and two in six patients. Thirteen patients were assessable for response. Seven patients (54%) had a complete response, two (15%) a partial response, and four (31%) progressive disease. The median overall survival was 7.7 months, and the median progression-free survival 7.7 months; however, six patients (43%) were alive without disease at 20-72 months from the start of treatment. Major toxicity was neutropenia (17% grade 3 and 6% grade 4). All other grade 3 and 4 hematotoxicities and non-hematological toxic effects ranged between 2% and 11%

CONCLUSIONS: Because of its efficacy and low toxicity, bendamustine in combination with rituximab may be an alternative treatment for aggressive lymphomas in old patients not eligible for R-CHOP. These results, however, need to be confirmed in larger studies.

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