Although the nucleoside analogs cladribine and pentostatin produce high response rates in patients with hairy cell leukemia (HCL), a significant number of patients eventually relapse. Several studies have demonstrated that patients with complete remission (CR) have a longer disease-free survival. Therefore, strategies to improve on the initial response to nucleoside analog therapy are likely to be beneficial, at least for a proportion of patients. We have treated 13 patients with newly diagnosed HCL (n = 11) or after failure of one prior chemotherapy (n = 2) with cladribine (5.6 mg/m2 given intravenously over 2 hours daily for 5 days) followed by 8 weekly doses of rituximab (375 mg/m2). All patients achieved a CR and minimal residual disease (MRD) assessed by consensus primer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or flow cytometry was eradicated in 11 (92%) of 12 and in 12 (92%) of 13 of patients, respectively. There was no decline in the absolute CD4 and CD8 lymphocyte number after rituximab. We conclude that eradication of MRD in HCL is possible. Whether this leads to a reduced risk of relapse would need to be evaluated in a larger number of patients and with longer follow-up. Disease characteristics may potentially be used to identify patients that are more likely to benefit from such additional therapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology