Treatment of Burkitt lymphoma in children and adults: Lessons from Africa
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Modern chemotherapy for childhood Burkitt lymphoma has its origins in Africa, where treatment evolved from one or two doses of single agents, which were curative in some patients, to combinations of non-cross-resistant drugs. Subsequently, in Europe and the United States, high-dose methotrexate, high-dose cytarabine, etoposide, and ifosfamide were found to be active in children with recurrent disease and were incorporated into primary therapy for patients with high-risk disease. These third-generation protocols produce overall cure rates around 90%. Therapy regimens for adults with Burkitt lymphoma have been developed by modifying second-generation pediatric protocols, and few investigators have used the third-generation pediatric regimens that include higher doses of methotrexate and additional agents. The weight of evidence strongly suggests that high-dose therapy with stem cell rescue in first remission cannot substitute for intensive therapy from the outset. Tolerance of intensive regimens by the elderly is a legitimate concern, but it seems appropriate to modify therapy only when necessary in individual patients. The value of rituximab and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor in patients undergoing intensive therapy (particularly the elderly) is worthy of further exploration. Because childhood diffuse large-B-cell leukemia (DLBCL) responds equally well to therapy for Burkitt lymphoma, more intensive therapy and intensive support might also give better results in at least a subset of adults with advanced DLBCL—perhaps defined on the basis of limited molecular profiling, which has provided new information about the categories of aggressive B-cell lymphomas.
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