R-HDS 0305 (Clinical Trials. gov. number NCT00355199) is a multi-centre, unblinded, randomized controlled phase III trial involving 240 patients in 3 years from 16 Italian Cancer Centres, with DLBCL without CNS involvement, advanced stage (stage ≥IIB, bulk), age from 18 to 60 years with ECOG-PS=0–3 and aaIPI=2–3 or age from 61 to 65 years with ECOG-PS=0–2 and IPI 3–5. The control group received R-CHOP-14, which comprised 8 courses of chemotherapy every 14 days, supported by GCSF (day 7–11)±IFRT, if they achieved at least a PR after 4 cycles. Cases refractory to R-CHOP-14 were given R-HDS as salvage therapy. Experimental arm consisted in a R-HDS program, including a debulking phase of 3 courses of doxorubicin-containing chemotherapy (APO), followed by high-dose (HD)-cyclophosphamide (CTX) 7g/sqm, HD-Ara-C (2 g/sqm every 12 hours for 6 days), HD-etoposide 2g/sqm+Cisplatin 100 mg/sqm. After HDS chemotherapy, HD-mitoxantrone plus melphalan (60 and 180 mg/sqm) or a BEAM (BCNU 300 mg/sqm, etoposide 200 mg/sqm, Ara-C 4000 mg/sqm, L-PAM 140 mg/sqm) conditioning regimen with ASCT±IFRT was planned. Rituximab (375 mg/sqm) is given for a total of 6 doses, twice after HD-CTX and HD-Ara-C, as in vivo purging before CD34+ cells harvest, and twice after ASCT. The primary outcomes of the study are complete remission and disease-free survival, overall survival, event-free survival and toxicity. From July 2005 to July 2007, 89 patients were enrolled in the study (R-CHOP-14=43; R-HDS=46). The median age was 51 (range 19–65 years), 11 (12%) had ≥60 years and the M/F was 1.3. Patients presented with adverse features such as advanced stage (88%), BM infiltration (28%), bulky disease (71%), elevated LDH (84%), poor ECOG-PS (55%) and >1 extranodal sites (59%). Until now only 3 patients (3.4%) were refractory to planned treatment: 1/43 (2%) patients belonging to R-CHOP-14 arm shifted to R-HDS salvage treatment and other 2 patients died from lymphoma progression. The main G 3–4 WHO toxicity was haematological: anemia, granulocytopenia and thrombocytopenia occurred in 8%, 18% and 13% of patients, respectively. Grade 2–3 gastrointestinal toxicity and infectious episodes were recorded in 6% and 9% of patients, respectively. Two patients recovered from acute respiratory distress and 2 died of treatment-related toxicity (2.2%). In conclusion, if the R-HDS trial confirms earlier results, preliminary data show that intensive programs such as dose-dense chemo-immunotherapy and R-HDS with ASCT are feasible until 65 years with an acceptable toxic profile, also on the multi-centre basis. At completion of the trial we will assess the role of R-HDS and ASCT on the outcome of high-risk patients with DLBCL.

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Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.