The results of 2 consecutive and prospective trials with specifically devised chemotherapy regimens in elderly patients (pts) with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) are reported. Between August 1979 and September 1984, 66 pts aged 70 or older (median 75 years) with NHL entered 2 consecutive trials, the former with single agent teniposide 100 mg/m2 i.v. weekly (41 pts), the latter with etoposide and prednimustine (E + P), 100 mg/m p.o. for 5 days every 21 days (25 pts). Forty-five pts were previously untreated, 21 previously treated. Forty-seven pts were of the intermediate and high grade groups according to the Working Formulation; 19 pts were of the low grade; 57 pts were stages III and IV, 9 pts were stages I and II. The median performance status was 70 (range 30-100). The objective response rate in the 66 evaluable pts is 53% with 38% CR; the 3-year overall, disease-free and CR survivals are 21, 12 and 40% respectively. The objective response rate in the 45 previously untreated pts is 58% with 42% CR; the 3-year overall, disease-free and CR survivals are 24, 16 and 58% respectively. The overall toxicity was mild. Severe toxicity (grade III and IV according to WHO criteria) was observed only in 16 498 courses (3.2%), with 1 toxic death (grade IV leucopenia). We experienced the usefulness of a properly oriented clinical approach to elderly pts with NHL. We suggest that a combination regimen like E + P, suitable for oral administration, may be safely employed in a large fraction of pts with NHL.
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