Increased toxicities in children with Burkitt lymphoma treated with rituximab: Experience from a tertiary cancer center in India


Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2020 Aug 31:e28682. doi: 10.1002/pbc.28682. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Even though rituximab has emerged as standard of care for the management of high-risk pediatric Burkitt lymphoma (BL), its safety in children from the low-middle-income countries (LMICs) remains to be proven. We herein report our experience of using rituximab in children with BL.

METHODS: All patients diagnosed with BL between January 2015 and December 2017 were treated in a risk-stratified manner with either the modified MCP-842 or modified LMB protocol. Patients with poor response to MCP-842 were switched to the LMB-salvage regimen. In addition, rituximab was given to selected high-risk patients.

RESULT: Forty-two (49.4%) of 85 patients with BL received rituximab. The incidence of febrile neutropenia (90.5% vs 67.4%; P = 0.02), pneumonia (38.1% vs 11.6%; P = 0.005), intensive care unit admissions (54.5% vs 17.6%; P = 0.002), and toxic deaths (26.2% vs 9.3%; P = 0.04) was higher among BL patients who received rituximab. Pneumonia was fatal in 11 of 16 (69%) patients who received rituximab. On multivariate analysis, rituximab continued to be significantly associated with toxic deaths ( OR: 11.45 [95% CI: 1.87-70.07; P = 0.008]). The addition of rituximab to intensive chemotherapy resulted in an inferior one-year event-free survival (49.4% ± 8.1% vs 79.3% ± 6.5%; P = 0.025) and one-year overall survival (63.1% ± 8.5% vs 91.8% ± 4.5%; P = 0.007) with no improvement in one-year relapse-free survival (78.3% ± 7.3% vs 83.9% ± 6.0%; P = 0.817).

CONCLUSION: Rituximab was associated with increased toxicities and toxic deaths in our patients. The potential immunomodulatory effect of rituximab and increased susceptibility to infections in patients from LMICs have to be carefully considered while choosing this drug in the treatment of BL in resource-constrained settings.