Radioimmunotherapy and autologous stem-cell transplantation in the treatment of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Avichai Shimoni, Shifra Tzila Zwas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


High-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem-cell transplantation (ASCT) is the standard therapy for patients with chemosensitive-relapsed or chemosensitive-refractory aggressive lymphoma. The use of rituximab, an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, has dramatically changed the outcome of patients with aggressive lymphoma, increasing both response and survival rates. However, despite this progress a significant proportion of patients are still refractory or relapse after frontline rituximab-containing therapy. Moreover, it is increasingly more difficult to rescue these patients with current salvage chemotherapy and ASCT approaches. Novel approaches are needed for these high-risk patients, especially in the rituximab era. Radioimmunotherapy (RIT) is a form of targeted therapy using the parent monoclonal antibody to deliver radiation emitted by a conjugated radioisotope, to the vicinity of antigen-positive tissues. Two radioimmunoconjugates - yttrium-90 ibritumomab tiuxetan (Zevalin) and iodine-131 tositumomab (Bexxar) have been in clinical use. There are multiple studies demonstrating the safety and efficacy of both agents in both indolent and aggressive lymphoma. Radiolabeled antibodies are ideal candidates to combine with high-dose chemotherapy and ASCT. RIT targets radiation to disease sites while limiting exposure of uninvolved critical organs, thus it can safely replace total-body irradiation during conditioning for ASCT. The major toxicity and limiting factor in RIT is myelotoxicity that is easily reversed by stem-cell rescue. RIT can be combined at standard doses with high-dose chemotherapy or can be given in escalated doses either alone or with high-dose chemotherapy before ASCT. Several phase II studies have shown the safety and potential efficacy of both agents using these approaches. A small randomized study comparing standard-dose Zevalin with combination of carmustine, etoposide, cytarabine, and melphalan (BEAM) high-dose chemotherapy and BEAM alone suggested a survival advantage of Zevalin-BEAM. However, a large randomized study comparing Bexxar-BEAM and rituximab-BEAM did not show any advantage. More studies are needed to establish the role and the dose of RIT given for ASCT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-125
Number of pages7
JournalSeminars in Nuclear Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016


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