Introduction: FL is generally responsive to conventional-dose chemotherapy but long term disease-free survival (DFS) is uncommon. High-dose chemo-radiotherapy followed by ASCT has the potential to induce remission in this disease but the long-term benefit of this modality remains to be determined.

Methods: Between 1990 and 2003, we transplanted 52 pts originally diagnosed with low-grade FL (31 grade 1, 21 grade 2). Twenty-five (48%) had biopsy-proven large cell transformation (FL grade 3 or diffuse large cell lymphoma) before ASCT. The median number of prior therapies was 2 (range: 1 to 7). Prior to ASCT, 45 pts (87%) were responsive to salvage therapy with 20 pts (38%) in CR. Five pts (10%) had chemo-resistant disease at the time of ASCT. High-dose regimens included BCNU-cyclophosphamide-etoposide (31%), melphalan/TBI (27%), and cyclophosphamide/TBI (25%). Thirty-eight pts (73%) received peripheral stem cells (PSCT) and 14 pts (27%) received autologous bone marrow (BM) with 4-hydroxyperoxycyclophosphamide (4-hc) purging in 9 cases (17%). The median age was 49 yrs (range: 29–65).

Results: There was 1 treatment-related death during the first 100 days. After ASCT, 36 pts (69%) achieved a CR, 2 (4%) had a PR, and 7 (13%) had stable disease. Among those in CR, 20 (56%) had a CR pre-ASCT, 14 (41%) had a lesser response, and 1 (3%) was chemo-resistant. Median follow-up (f/u) of survivors was 5.3 yrs (range: 1.7 months to 12.4 yrs). The median overall survival (OS) has not yet been reached. The median event-free survival (EFS) is 3.4 yrs (range: 1.7 months to 12.4 yrs). Among complete responders, more than 50% are disease free at last follow-up (range 1.7 months to 12.1 yrs). Variables favorably affecting EFS and OS are age < 60 yrs (p = 0.007, 0.015 respectively), achievement of a CR after ASCT (p = 0.002, 0.001), absence of transformation (p = 0.038, 0.017), BM vs. PSCT (p = 0.042, 0.086), and 4-hc BM purging (p = 0.044, 0.059). Number of prior regimens, response prior to ASCT, type of preparative regimen, and addition of TBI, were not significantly associated with EFS, DFS, or OS. In multivariable analysis, achievement of CR after ASCT and age < 60 yrs are the only significant predictors of EFS and OS. Adjusted for age, 53% of pts with a CR after ASCT are alive and event-free at last f/u (range: 2.4 months to 12.4 yrs) (Figure 1). In contrast, the median EFS among pts without a CR is 0.5 yrs (range: 1.7 months to 5.3 yrs).

Conclusion: ASCT is a reasonable therapeutic approach to FL, resulting in long term EFS for some pts, even with relapsed, refractory and/or transformed disease. In our experience, significant predictors of EFS and OS after ASCT are complete response and age <60. The appropriate application and timing of ASCT in the management of pts with FL needs to be further evaluated in randomized, controlled clinical trials.

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