Rituximab-Induced Changes in Hematolymphoid Tissues Found at Autopsy

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The effect of rituximab on malignant B cells and normal circulating B cells has been previously studied. In contrast, data on the degree of depletion of nonneoplastic B cells induced by rituximab in lymph nodes and spleen is limited. For this purpose, clinical charts, autopsy records, lymph node and spleen sections, and immunoperoxidase stains were reviewed from 10 patients who had received 1 to 40 doses of rituximab before death. The percentage of nonneoplastic B cells was lower in the lymph node and spleen in rituximab-treated patients when compared with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone–treated patients and patients without lymphoma. The effect of rituximab on nonneoplastic B cells was observed as soon as 1 month after administration and with as few as 3 doses. Reappearance of normal numbers of B cells was not observed 1 to 12 months after the last dose of rituximab was administered. We conclude that rituximab induces prompt, consistent, profound, and prolonged depletion of B lymphocyte populations in human lymphoid tissue.

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