The potential benefits of extended rituximab treatment have been investigated in a randomized trial comparing the standard schedule with prolonged treatment in 202 patients with newly diagnosed or refractory/relapsed follicular lymphoma (FL). All patients received standard treatment (rituximab 375 mg/m2 weekly × 4). In 185 evaluable patients, the overall response rate was 67% in chemotherapy-naive patients and 46% in pretreated cases (P <.01). Patients responding or with stable disease at week 12 (n = 151) were randomized to no further treatment or prolonged rituximab administration (375 mg/m2 every 2 months for 4 times). At a median follow-up of 35 months, the median event-free survival (EFS) was 12 months in the no further treatment versus 23 months in the prolonged treatment arm (P = .02), the difference being particularly notable in chemotherapy-naive patients (19 vs 36 months; P = .009) and in patients responding to induction treatment (16 vs 36 months; P = .004). The number of t(14;18)-positive cells in peripheral blood (P = .0035) and in bone marrow (P = .0052) at baseline was predictive for clinical response. Circulating normal B lymphocytes and immunoglobulin M (IgM) plasma levels decreased for a significantly longer time after prolonged treatment, but the incidence of adverse events was not increased. In patients with FL, the administration of 4 additional doses of rituximab at 8-week intervals significantly Improves the EFS.
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