We have used a single intensive chemotherapy regimen in the treatment of young patients with diffuse, aggressive, malignant lymphomas. There were two major histologic types of lymphoma in our series: lymphoblastic lymphomas, which presented most often with mediastinal tumor (64%), and undifferentiated lymphomas (mostly Burkitt’s lymphomas), which occurred predominantly in the abdomen (86%). Our objective was to examine the determinants of prognosis in a uniformly treated patient group that included 31 children (2–16 yr) and 34 young adults 17–35 yr). Patients with extensive bone marrow involvement (greater than 50% replacement by tumor cells) were included in the study. Treatment consisted essentially of a 4-drug combination (cytoxan, adriamycin, vincristine, and prednisone) alternating with a 42-hr methotrexate infusion, followed by leukovorin rescue, and included intrathecal prophylactic therapy against central nervous system (CNS) disease. Patients with localized or resected undifferentiated lymphoma received 6 therapy cycles; all other patients received 15 cycles. Radiation therapy was used only in exceptional circumstances. Fifty-eight of 65 patients (89%) achieved complete remission: 97% of children and 82% of adults. The estimated 3-yr survival was 60% (SE 6.4%) with a median follow-up of 3 yr. Analysis of factors associated with remission duration and survival indicated that bone marrow involvement at referral and extensive disease were poor prognostic variables. Patients with lymphoblastic lymphomas and patients with completely resected undifferentiated lymphomas had the best prognosis (81% +/- 12% and 94% +/- 6% estimated 3-yr survival, respectively). Patients with extensive intraabdominal undifferentiated lymphoma (stage D) had the worst prognosis (33% +/- 11% estimated 3 yr survival), but even in this subgroup, bone marrow involvement was an adverse factor (estimated survival in stage D patients with and without bone marrow involvement was 14% +/- 13% and 43% +/- 15%, respectively). Elevated uric acid and/or lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) were also of prognostic significance, but predominantly reflected state, i.e., extent of disease. Age did not significantly influence prognosis. In the undifferentiated lymphoma subgroup, histology (i.e., Burkitt's lymphoma versus non-Burkitt’s lymphoma) was not of prognostic significance. Total white count was below 1,000/cu mm in 39% of cycles, and fever associated with granulocytopenia occurred in 17% of cycles. Stomatitis of moderate to severe extent occurred in 50% of cycles.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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