The best treatment option for patients with relapsed or high-grade follicular lymphoma (FL) is unknown. In spite of major advances in the therapy for FL, disease-free survival remains short, and median time to progression is just over a year. Autologous stem cell transplantation in patients with relapsed FL is safe and appears to improve disease-free survival. In an attempt to examine whether autologous stem cell transplantation provides long-term disease control in patients with relapsed or high-grade FL, we retrospectively evaluated our experience and analyzed the outcomes of autologous stem cell transplantation in patients with FL from 1991 to 2003. Seventeen men and seven women (n =24) of median age 47.5 years (range 28-64 years) were treated. Three patients with high-risk FL were in first remission. Twenty-one patients were salvaged after relapse with second-line chemotherapy. Of these, 14 were in CR at the time of transplantation, and seven patients were transplanted with active disease. Bone marrow was used in six patients as the source of stem cells prior to 1995 and peripheral blood stem cells were used in 18 patients. Twenty-three of 24 patients engrafted (96%). Median time for neutrophil recovery was 11.5 days (range 9-35 days) and 15 days (range 10-40 days) for platelets. Median duration of follow-up was 6 years (range 7 months-8 years). Of the 24 patients, six have died - With one patient death due to transplant-related pulmonary complications. Overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) of all evaluable patients were 71.6 and 40%, respectively. Median duration of response was 4.3 years. OS and DFS in patients transplanted in CR were 80 and 57%, respectively. For those transplanted with disease, a complete response was achieved in 43% of patients, with the OS and DFS of 57 and 19%, respectively. Disease status at transplantation was not a significant variable for survival (p >0.3). Three patients developed moderate to severe treatment-related toxicity, two with grade III mucositis and one with life-threatening infection. When these results are compared with historical controls or patients treated with other modalities, autologous stem cell transplantation appears to be providing the longest disease-free survival and best duration of response.
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