Synergism between fludarabine and rituximab revealed in a follicular lymphoma cell line resistant to the cytotoxic activity of either drug alone

N. Di Gaetano, Y. Xiao, E. Erba, R. Bassan, A. Rambaldi, J. Golay, M. Introna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have shown previously that the anti-CD20 chimaeric monoclonal antibody rituximab exerts its effects on neoplastic B-lymphoma cell lines in part via complement-dependent cytotoxicity. In addition, membrane expression levels of complement inhibitory proteins CD55 and CD59 play a role in determining susceptibility to lysis. We have identified one t(14;18)-positive human B-cell non Hodgkin's lymphoma cell line (Karpas 422) that is resistant to rituximab and complement and used it for subsequent studies on the possible interaction between this novel therapeutic agent and established antineoplastic drugs. We have exposed Karpas to several chemotherapeutic agents (doxorubicin, idarubicin, cisplatin, taxol) for different time periods and subsequently exposed the cells to rituximab and human complement. The combination of these drugs with rituximab induced an additive cytotoxic effect. In contrast, exposure to fludarabine (1 μg/ml for 48-72 h) showed a synergistic effect, with cell lysis increasing from 10% to 20% using fludarabine or rituximab and complement alone to about 70% with both cytotoxic agents. Analysis of the mechanism for this synergistic effect showed that fludarabine downmodulates the membrane expression of CD55 (from 96% to 55% positive cells) without significantly altering CD20 levels. Northern analysis demonstrated that fludarabine induced a general downmodulation of steady state mRNA levels with no change in transcription rate detected in run-off assays. The study of the effect of fludarabine and rituximab in six freshly isolated B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (B-CLL) samples showed that, in most cases, fludarabine has an additive cytotoxic activity with rituximab and complement. This report gives a rational support for clinical studies with combinations of drugs, including monoclonal antibodies and fludarabine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)800-809
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Haematology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Chemotherapeutic agent
  • Complement
  • Fludarabine
  • Lymphoma
  • Rituximab

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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