We conducted a phase II study to assess activity and safety profile of bendamustine and rituximab in elderly patients with untreated diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) who were prospectively defined as frail using a simplified version of the Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA). Patients had to be over 70 years of age, with histologically confirmed DLBCL. Frail patients were those younger than 80 years with a frail profile at CGA or older than 80 years with an unfit profile. Treatment consisted of 4-6 courses of bendamustine [90 mg/m2 days (d)1-2] and rituximab (375 mg/m2 d1) administered every 28 days. Other main study end points were complete remission rate and the rate of extra-hematologic adverse events. Forty-nine patients were enrolled of whom 45 were confirmed eligible. Overall, 24 patients achieved a complete remission (53%; 95%CI: 38-68%) and the overall response rate was 62% (95%CI: 47-76%). The most frequent grade 3-4 adverse event was neutropenia (37.8%). Grade 3-4 extra-hematologic adverse events were observed in 7 patients (15.6%; 95%CI: 6.5-29.5%); the most frequent was grade 3 infection in 2 patients. With a median follow up of 33 months (range 1-52), the median progression-free survival was ten months (95%CI: 7-25). The study shows promising activity and manageable toxicity profile of BR combination as first-line therapy for patients with DLBCL who are prospectively defined as frail according to a simplified CGA, as adopted in this trial (clinicaltrials.gov identifier: 01990144).
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