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Cancer Health Center

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Primary CNS Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview


Chemotherapy Alone

Because of unsatisfactory results of WBRT alone and the neurologic toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, a major focus is now on trials with chemotherapy alone.[15] Multiple reports have described systemic chemotherapy, which has been employed alone or with osmotic blood-brain barrier disruption, usually including high-dose methotrexate with frequent hospitalizations.[8,10,16,17,18,19,20,21]

A multicenter trial (NABTT-9607) evaluated high-dose methotrexate alone (8 g/m2) for newly diagnosed patients, with WBRT administered only at disease recurrence. With a median follow-up of 2 years, median PFS was 13 months and median OS had not been reached at 23 plus months.[22][Level of evidence: 3iiiA] Another multicenter trial (EORTC-26952) of 50 patients older than 60 years used high-dose methotrexate (3 g/m2 /cycle), lomustine, procarbazine, methylprednisolone, and intrathecal methotrexate and cytarabine. The 1-year PFS was 40%, and the median OS was 14.3 months in this older patient group with a median age of 72 years.[23][Level of evidence: 3iiiA] Another multicenter trial of 65 patients used both high-dose methotrexate and high-dose cytarabine, including ifosfamide, cyclophosphamide, vinca alkaloids, dexamethasone, and intrathecal methotrexate, cytarabine, and prednisolone. The median time-to-treatment failure was 15 months with a median survival of 34 months; 57% of patients age 60 or younger were still alive at a median follow-up of 8 years.[24,25][Level of evidence: 3iiiA] Patients with recurrent or refractory CNS lymphoma after methotrexate-based chemotherapy are candidates for salvage chemotherapy.[26]

Severe delayed neurologic toxic effects were rarely seen in these chemotherapy-only trials (in the absence of subsequent radiation therapy). Reduction of dosage for subsequent radiation to 23.4 Gy has been applied for patients who achieve clinical complete response after induction chemotherapy.[27][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiii]

Many of the aforementioned phase II results have never been tested in a randomized setting because of an insufficient number of patients.

Chemotherapy and Stem Cell Transplant

Intensive chemotherapy with autologous peripheral stem cell transplantation is also under evaluation; neurologic toxic effects were not reported in the absence of radiation therapy.[28,29,30,31,32,33] A phase II feasibility study used chemotherapy induction with methotrexate, temozolomide, and rituximab (given once every 2 weeks for 10 doses) plus consolidation with etoposide and high-dose cytarabine; with a median follow-up of 4.9 years, this phase II Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) trial of 44 patients reported a complete radiographic response in 66% of the patients, a 2-year PFS of 57%, and an estimated OS of 65% at 4 years.[34][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv] A randomized, prospective trial by the CALGB (CALGB-50202 [NCT00098774]) will compare this nonstandard induction regimen versus the same induction chemotherapy with myeloablative peripheral stem cell transplantation.

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