Recently, encouraging results in terms of safety and efficacy have been obtained using bendamustine-rituximab (BR) in untreated chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) patients enrolled in a phase II study. Here, we report a retrospective international multicenter study of CLL patients treated with BR as front-line therapy. The cohort included 279 patients with progressive CLL from 33 centers (29 Italian, 3 Israeli and 1 German) who received at least 1 cycle of BR as first-line treatment during the 2008-2014 period. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of BR administered as front-line therapy, outside of controlled clinical trials. Median age was 70 years (range, 43-86 years); 62.4% were males and 35.8% had Binet stage C. Forty-two patients (15.2%) were unfit (cumulative illness rating scale [CIRS] score ≥7), and 140 (50.2%) had creatinine clearance ≤70 ml/min. Fluorescent in situ hybridisation analysis, available for 192 cases, showed that 21 (10.9%) had del11q and 18 (9.4%) del17p. The overall response rate (ORR) was 86.4%, with a complete remission rate of 28%. Patients with del17p had an ORR of 66.7%. After median follow-up of 24 months, the 2-year progression-free survival (PFS) was 69.9%; CIRS ≥7, immunoglobulin heavy-chain variable-region (IGHV) unmutated status, del17p and BR dose intensity <80% were independently associated with shorter PFS. Grade III or IV neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, and anaemia were observed in 25.9%, 15.4%, and 15.1% of patients, respectively. Twenty-four patients (8.6%) had severe infections. BR is also an effective and safe regimen for untreated CLL patients, outside of controlled clinical trials.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia