Efficacy and safety of bendamustine for the treatment of patients with recurring Hodgkin lymphoma

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The management of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) recurring after stem cell transplantation (SCT) and multiply relapsed disease remains challenging. We report on 41 such patients who received bendamustine hydrochloride, a bifunctional mechlorethamine derivative mechanistically unrelated to traditional alkylators, after a median of four prior chemotherapy lines, including SCT in 85% of cases. Bendamustine was given at doses of 90–120 mg/m2 every 21 or 28 d. At first assessment (2–4 cycles), the overall response rate (ORR) was 78% with 12 (29%) complete (CR) and 20 (49%) partial responses (PR). Upon treatment prolongation to 6–8 courses, 40% of PRs progressed, yielding a final ORR of 58% with 31% of CRs. Eight patients (two CRs, six PRs) were subsequently allotransplanted. Median progression-free and overall survival exceeded 11 and 21 months respectively; complete responders displayed a median disease-free survival above 9 months with a relapse rate of only 30%. Outcomes were independent of disease chemosensitivity, previous transplant and bendamustine dose-intensity. No life-threatening or unexpected adverse events occurred. Within the limits of a retrospective analysis and schedule heterogeneity, these results appear very encouraging and prompt prospective trials to confirm bendamustine as a valuable option in the palliative setting and in cytoreductive strategies before allotransplantation.

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