Tissue samples from 93 de novo diffuse large B-cell lymphoma patients seen between 1995 and 2009 randomly receiving either standard combination chemotherapy (CHOP, n=48) or the identical program with rituximab (n=45) were subtyped using an investigational immunohistochemical (IHC) based tissue microarray (TMA) and contrasted to the approximately corresponding categories as defined either by Hans and associates using a three marker panel into germinal or non-germinal centre subtypes or by Choi and colleagues with two additional antibodies into germinal centre (GCB) or activated B-cells (ABC). Each of these primary subdivisions was further evaluated for expression of BCL2 and LMO2 both of which are recognised to predicate response. The addition of rituximab to the uniform drug regimen did not show any significant improvement in 5. years overall (63% versus 59%, p 0.68) or event-free survival (42% versus 39%, p 0.94), for CHOP versus R-CHOP comparisons. Similarly no differences were evident in subtype analysis. Interestingly however, when segregated on the Choi criteria, cytotoxic drugs alone showed a non-significant trend in improved survival (74% versus 55%, p 0.32) as well as event-free survival (44% versus 40%, p 0.42) for the germinal centre as opposed to the activated B-cell subtype. Nevertheless not even a small difference could be demonstrated in the presence of the anti CD 20 monoclonal antibody. According to Choi, both regimens (chemotherapy or immunotherapy antibody) revealed similar results to the Hans algorithm on 5. years OS as well as 3. year EFS when comparing GCB versus ABC or non-GCB subgroups.BCL2 and LMO2 marker expression of the respective immunohistochemical (IHC) subtype, despite small sample size, revealed the following. Analysis by Choi criteria on survival for BCL2, no matter for which subsets (GCB or ABC) or treatment modality (chemotherapy with or without the addition of rituximab) showed no difference in 5years OS or EFS. In contrast, a significant difference for better EFS (p=0.0015) in the BCL2 positive group of the ABC subgroups subtypes treated with rituximab containing chemotherapy. For LMO2 similar results on survival outcome were seen thus showing no difference in 5years OS or EFS - regardless of subtype or treatment modality. Also here, this was contrasted by better EFS (p=0.039) in the LMO2 positive group of ABC subtypes when treated with the rituximab containing regimen.The use of the IHC based TMA methodology has shown to be a simple, cost effective and a robust alternative to gene expression profiling (GEP) which is currently regarded as the gold standard for the classification in lymphomas. It provides a useful prognostic tool in stratifying DLBCL or other entities in future, even when frozen tissue samples are not available for GEP analysis.With the current budgetary limitations in South African public hospitals chemotherapy protocols for lymphoproliferative disorders exclude agents such as rituximab. Local therapeutic drug committees consider the approximately 15% overall survival benefit seen at 5. years for DLBCL when rituximab is added to combination chemotherapy as too marginal for justifying the arising additional expenses.Accordingly, demonstration that a specific molecular subtype accounts for superior outcome, when using these regimens, is needed. Such an option would provide convincing evidence for the use of immunochemotherapy in a resource constrained setting.
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