Abstract

An intensive chemotherapy regimen (EVDAC), including high-dose epirubicin, vincristine, and dexamethasone followed by cyclophosphamide and high-dose cytarabine, was administered to 54 untreated adults with intermediate or high-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHL). The median age was 59, 61% were Ann Arbor Stage IV, 57% had “B” symptoms, 50% had serum lactate dehydrogenase greater than 250 U/L, and 48% had masses greater than 7 cm (33% > 10 cm) in diameter. Seventy-six percent of patients attained complete or probable complete remissions. The Kaplan- Meier actuarial failure-free survival at 7 years is 50%, and 59% (32 of 54) of all patients started on therapy remain alive and in first remission at a median of 62+ (range, 49+ to 76+) months from completion of therapy. Nearly all patients developed severe neutropenia. Febrile episodes requiring hospitalization during neutropenia occurred after 56% of courses of epirubicin, vincristine, and dexamethasone and after 9% of courses of cyclophosphamide and cytarabine; 80% of patients were hospitalized at least once. Platelet count nadirs of less than 20,000/microL occurred after only 1 of 146 evaluable courses of epirubicin and after none of the cyclophosphamide/cytarabine courses. Although 8 patients had decreases of at least 0.12 in their left ventricular ejection fractions (5 to below normal levels), none have developed clinically evident congestive heart failure. Clinically significant mucositis occurred after only 8% of courses of high-dose epirubicin. Three deaths from infections and one from hyperkalemia with cardiac arrest occurred during therapy. These results confirm that high remission and sustained, failure-free survival rates can be achieved in patients with aggressive NHL, using high-dose anthracycline-containing chemotherapy regimens. Epirubicin appears to have an advantage over doxorubicin at high doses because of decreased toxicity at a therapeutically equivalent dose. These phase II study results need to be validated in a randomized phase III trial, and growth factors should be used to attempt to reduce the neutropenia-associated complications.

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