Although in recent years the use of purine analogues has increased the percentage of long-term complete response the effect on overall survival of patients with hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is not yet clear. This study aimed to evaluate the long-term outcome (mean follow up of 92 months) of 64 patients receiving IFN as first-line therapy. IFN was well tolerated and effective. The overall response rate was 91% (PR 65%, CR 13%, GPR 13%). Forty-one patients (63%) received IFN 3 MU/wk as maintenance therapy. The 10-yr projected survival rate of responding patients (CR and GPR 100%; PR 95%) and non-responders (SD, PD 80%) clearly shows that type of response does not affect survival. Patients receiving IFN maintenance had a statistically higher PFS than those who did not (p <0.01). This study shows that IFN is still one of the standard therapies for this disease, that achieving CR has no primary relevance for the control of the disease, and that good utilization of therapeutic resources may assure HCL patients a survival rate comparable to that of a normal, healthy population.
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