Purpose: To assess the efficacy of combination therapy with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) based on data suggesting in vitro synergistic activity of the two agents. Patients and Methods: A total of 128 patients with CLL were treated with fludarabine 30 mg/m2 intravenously daily for 3 days and cyclophosphamide at either 500 mg/m2 daily for 3 days (n = 11), 350 mg/m2/d for 3 days (n = 26), or 300 mg/m2 daily for 3 days (n = 91). The cyclophosphamide dose was decreased because of myelosuppression in the early part of the study. Patients were divided into four groups based on the expectation for response to single-agent fludarabine, including previously untreated patients, patients previously treated with alkylating agents, patients successfully treated with alkylating agents and fludarabine but relapsing, and patients refractory to fludarabine with or without alkylating agents. Results: Fludarabine and cyclophosphamide produced ≥ 80% response rates in all patients not refractory to fludarabine at the start of therapy as well as a 38% response rate in patients who were refractory to fludarabine. The complete remission (CR) rate was 35% in previously untreated patients, which was not significantly different from the CR rate in historical control patients treated with single-agent fludarabine. However, residual disease assessed by flow cytometry occurred in only 8% of previously untreated patients achieving CR, and median time to progression has not been reached after a median follow-up of 41 months. The main complication of therapy was related to myelosuppression and infection. Neutropenia to less than 500 × 109/L was noted in 48% of patients who received cyclophosphamide 300 mg/m2. Pneumonia or sepsis occurred in 25% of patients, and fever of unknown origin occurred in another 25%. Pneumonia or sepsis were significantly more frequent in patients who were refractory to fludarabine at the start of combination chemotherapy. Conclusion: Fludarabine and cyclophosphamide seem to have a significant advantage over single-agent fludarabine in the salvage setting. Although the CR rate was not increased in previously untreated patients, residual disease detected by flow cytometry was rare and remission durations seemed to be prolonged in this subset. Myelosuppression and infection remain the most significant complications of therapy in CLL.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research