Rituximab in primary central nervous system lymphoma—A systematic review and meta-analysis

Andreas M. Schmitt, Amanda K. Herbrand, Christopher P. Fox, Katerina Bakunina, Jacoline E.C. Bromberg, Kate Cwynarski, Jeanette K. Doorduijn, Andrés J.M. Ferreri, Gerald Illerhaus, Samar Issa, Elisabeth Schorb, Emanuele Zucca, Lars G. Hemkens, Stefan Schandelmaier, Benjamin Kasenda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The CD-20 antibody rituximab is a standard component of treatment of non-Hodgkin B-cell lymphomas, including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Primary DLBCL of the central nervous system, also called primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL), is a DLBCL confined to the central nervous system. There has been debate whether intravenous rituximab accumulates sufficiently in the central nervous system to exert an effect. In this systematic review, we assess the benefits and harms of rituximab in the treatment of immunocompetent patients with PCNSL. By searching MEDLINE, CENTRAL, and ClincialTrials.gov up to March 2019, we identified randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the effect of rituximab in patients with PCNSL. We extracted study characteristics and results, assessed risk of bias, performed trial-level random-effects meta-analyses, and graded the certainty of evidence. The protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42019121965). Main outcomes were overall survival (time to death), progression-free survival (time to progression or death), quality of life, grades 3 and 4 toxicity, and treatment-related mortality. We included two RCTs with a total of 343 participants. Overall survival was not statistically significantly improved (HR 0.76; 95% CI, 0.52-1.12; low certainty), with 187 fewer to 39 more deaths after 2 years in 1000 treated patients. Low certainty of evidence indicated that rituximab improved progression-free survival (HR 0.65; 95% CI, 0.45-0.95), which translated into 137 fewer progressions or deaths after 2 years in 1000 treated patients (231 to 18 fewer). None of the RCTs provided data on quality of life. We found no evidence that rituximab increased grades 3 and 4 toxicity or treatment-related mortality (RR 0.53; 95% CI, 0.20-1.37; low certainty). Overall, the available evidence suggests with low certainty that rituximab in combination with methotrexate-based chemotherapy may improve progression-free survival in immunocompetent patients with newly diagnosed PCNSL, the pooled effect estimates did not show evidence for improvement of overall survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-557
Number of pages10
JournalHematological Oncology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2019


  • diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
  • lymphoma
  • primary CNS lymphoma
  • rituximab

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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