LA JOLLA, CALIF. (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – When patients with peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) experience relapse, consider an allogeneic stem cell transplant or clinical trial, investigators advised.

Patients with relapsed PTCL have generally dismal outcomes, with a median progression-free survival (PFS) of 3.7 months and a median overall survival (OS) of just 6.5 months, according to one study ( J Clin Oncol. 2013 Jun 1;31[16]:1970-6 ).But for those patients who had a complete remission (CR) after salvage therapy, median PFS was 12.2 months, and median OS was 18 months, said Claire Dearden, MD , from the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

“Clearly the problem with most of the relapsed PTCL [cases] is that they don’t achieve a good response to salvage therapy. If they do, then they have much better chance of doing well,” she said at the annual T-cell Lymphoma Forum.

She outlined her center’s approach for treating patients with relapsed or refractory PTCL, following a case presentation by Royal Marsden fellow Matthew Cross, MD.

Complex disease, multiple therapies

The patient was a 71-year-old woman who in 2007 had a diagnosis of asymptomatic stage 4A follicular lymphoma managed with observation; in 2010, she was diagnosed with a CD30-positive PTCL not otherwise specified with ongoing low-level bone marrow involvement with follicular lymphoma.

She initially was treated elsewhere with R-CHOP chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone plus rituximab) and had a response after four cycles; however, she had progression with new intra-abdominal nodal sites by the sixth cycle and then was started on two cycles of ESHAP (etoposide, methylprednisolone, high-dose cytarabine, and cisplatin), but she had further progression by May 2011 and opted to forgo additional treatment.

By July 2011, however, she became highly symptomatic with new pruritic rashes on her legs, abdominal pain, and distention. She was referred to the Royal Marsden Hospital, where she was eventually diagnosed with angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) with an Epstein-Barr virus–negative clonal large B-cell proliferation in her bone marrow.

She was treated with gemcitabine plus methylprednisolone and prophylactic intrathecal methotrexate and had an “excellent clinical and radiological response,” Dr. Cross said.

A subsequent bone marrow biopsy showed marked hypocellularity but no evidence of either T-cell of B-cell lymphomas.

An autologous stem cell transplant was planned, but two attempts at harvesting peripheral blood stem cells – including one with plerixafor (Mozobil) – failed, and a PET scan within 3 months showed signs of early progression.

In April 2012, the patient was started on romidepsin (Istodax) and had a 1-year remission. But in April 2013, a repeat biopsy again showed CD30-positive AITL. Based on the CD30 positivity, the patient was started on brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris) in May 2013. She was observed to have progression in inguinal nodes in January 2014; she was treated with local radiotherapy and continued on brentuximab but had further progression in June 2014. At that time, she had additional gemcitabine-based combination chemotherapy and had stable disease for 10 months.

In March 2015, she received lenalidomide for further progression but could not tolerate the drug. She died in September 2015, 5 years after diagnosis and 4.5 years after frontline therapy failed.

Therapeutic rationale

Dr. Dearden walked through the choices that she, along with Dr. Cross and their colleagues, made in treating the patient. They chose gemcitabine-based regimens for salvage therapy because of the drug’s efficacy across various forms on non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma, she said.

However, a randomized, phase 3, noninferiority trial in the United Kingdom comparing GEM-P (gemcitabine, cisplatin, and methylprednisolone) with CHOP for first-line therapy of PTCL was halted at the interim analysis because GEM-P had not meet the primary endpoint, she said. Results of that trial have not been published to date.

“Clearly, if it’s the patients who do well, often it’s because they achieve a good enough remission to be able to proceed to some sort of consolidation therapy with autologous or allogeneic stem cell transplants, and I think auto-graft is probably accepted for the younger, fitter patients with relapsed chemo-sensitive disease,” she said.

Three-year survival rates for autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation range from 36% to 58% and are better than those seen with chemotherapy alone, she said.

“The problem of course is that not many patients receive the planned auto-graft, even if that’s the intention, either because of failure to respond to salvage regimen or early disease progression, which happens before the transplant is able to take place,” she said,

A reasonable alternative for patients with relapsed/refractory PTCL is allogeneic transplantation, as shown in a 2008 study.

Among 77 patients – 57 of whom had received myeloablative conditioning, 31 of whom were in complete remission, and 26 of whom had partial response at the time of transplants – the 5-year treatment-related mortality rate was 33%. However, the 5-year event-free and overall survival rates were 53% and 57%, respectively. Patients with AITL had especially good outcomes ( J Clin Oncol. 2008 May 10;26[14]:2264-71 ).

“In an ideal world, if our patient had been a suitable candidate for an allo-transplant, it’s what we would have tried to undertake,” Dr. Dearden said.

Dr. Dearden recommended that all patients with relapsed or refractory PTCL be considered for clinical trials. For fit patients in first relapse, combination platinum-based chemotherapy followed by autologous or allogeneic transplant may be effective.

For patients not eligible for transplant or with chemotherapy-refractory disease, she recommended trying the following monotherapy approaches: pralatrexate for patients with PTCL not otherwise specified, histone deacetylase inhibitors or 5-azacytidine for AITL, brentuximab vedotin for anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and pembrolizumab for natural killer/T-cell lymphomas.

Although two lines of intensive chemotherapy had failed the case patient within 6 months of diagnosis, she still survived for 5 years with sequential monotherapies, Dr. Dearden noted.

“I use to say to her, ‘You just need to stay one drug ahead of your disease.’ And she was well, she had a very good quality of life for a period of time, and if you can deliver a treatment that is effective for a patient, it will extend their survival,” Dr. Dearden said.

The T-cell Lymphoma Forum is held by Jonathan Wood & Associates, which is owned by the same company as this news organization. Dr. Dearden has consulted for MedImmune, Infinity Pharmaceuticals, Janssen, Gilead Sciences, and Roche, and has received honoraria from Janssen and Gilead. Dr. Cross reported no having no financial disclosures.


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