Background: Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL) is a rare variant of HL that accounts for 5% of all HL cases. The expression of CD20 on neoplastic lymphocytes provides a suitable target for novel treatments based on Rituximab. Due to its rarity, consolidated and widely accepted treatment guidelines are still lacking for this disease. Methods: Between 1 December 2007 and 28 February 2018, sixteen consecutive newly diagnosed adult patients with NLPHL received Rituximab (induction ± maintenance)-based therapy, according to the baseline risk of German Hodgkin Study Group prognostic score system. The treatment efficacy and safety of the Rituximab-group were compared to those of a historical cohort of 12 patients with NLPHL who received Doxorubicin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, Dacarbazine (ABVD) chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy (RT), if needed, according to a similar baseline risk. The primary outcome was progression-free survival (PFS) and secondary outcomes were overall survival (OS) and side-effects (according to the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events, v4.03). Results: After a 7-year follow-up (range, 1–11 years), PFS was 100% for patients treated with the Rituximab-containing regimen versus 66% for patients of the historical cohort (p
= 0.036). Four patients in the latter group showed insufficient response to therapy. The PFS for early favorable and early unfavorable NLPHLs was similar between treatment groups, while a better PFS was recorded for advanced-stages treated with the Rituximab-containing regimen. The OS was similar for the two treatment groups. Short- and long-term side-effects were more frequently observed in the historical cohort. Grade ≥3 neutropenia was more frequent in the historical cohort compared with the Rituximab-group (58.3% vs. 18.7%, respectively; p
= 0.03). Long-term non-hematological toxicities were observed more frequently in the historical cohort. Conclusion: Our results confirm the value of Rituximab in NLPHL therapy and show that Rituximab (single-agent) induction and maintenance in a limited-stage, or Rituximab with ABVD only in the presence of risk factors, give excellent results while sparing cytotoxic agent- and/or RT-related damage. Furthermore, Rituximab inclusion in advanced-stage therapeutic strategy seems to improve PFS compared to conventional chemo-radiotherapy.
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