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February 2019 – Although Burkitt lymphoma (BL) is common in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and highly curable in high-income countries, there are few prospective nonpediatric BL studies from SSA and no regional standard of care. This study represents one of the best characterized prospective cohorts of nonpediatric BL in SSA.

Prospective Study of Burkitt Lymphoma Treatment in Adolescents and Adults in Malawi

MS Painschab, KD Westmoreland, E Kasonkanji, T Zuze, B Kaimila, P Waswa, NK El-Mallawany, T Tomoka, M Mulenga, ND Montgomery, Y Fedoriw, S Gopal

Blood Advances

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Burkitt lymphoma (BL) is common in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In high-income countries, BL is highly curable with chemotherapy. However, there are few prospective studies from SSA describing nonpediatric BL and no regional standard of care. Thirty-five participants age 15 years or older with newly diagnosed BL were enrolled in Malawi from 2013 to 2018. Chemotherapy was administered according to institutional guidelines, with concurrent antiretroviral therapy if HIV infected. Median age was 21 years (range, 15-61) and 15 participants (43%) were HIV infected. Twenty-seven participants (77%) had stage III to IV disease, and 19 (54%) had Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status >1. Among HIV-infected participants, median CD4 count was 130 (range, 29-605) and 10 (67%) had suppressed HIV viral load. Four participants (11%) died before receiving chemotherapy. First-line chemotherapy consisted of: cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone (CHOP) (n = 22 [71%]); infusional etoposide, prednisolone, vincristine, cyclophosphamide, and doxorubicin (n = 4 [13%]); high-dose methotrexate-based chemotherapy (n = 4 [13%]); and rituximab plus CHOP (n = 1 [3%]). Among 28 evaluable participants, 14 (50%) achieved a complete response. Median overall survival (OS) was 7 months; 1-year OS was 40% (95% confidence interval [CI], 24%-56%). Sixteen (73%) of 22 deaths were a result of disease progression. Compared with CHOP, more intensive chemotherapy was associated with decreased mortality (hazard ratio, 0.24; 95% CI, 0.05-1.02; P = .05). This is among the best characterized prospective cohorts of nonpediatric BL in SSA. Most deaths resulted from progressive BL. Patients who received more intensive therapy seemed to have better outcomes. Defining optimal approaches is an urgent priority in SSA.