The poor prognosis for patients with diffuse large Bcell lymphoma (DLBCL) who relapse within 1year of initial diagnosis after first-line rituximab-based chemo-immunotherapy has created controversy about the role of autologous transplantation (HCT) in this setting. We compared autologous HCT outcomes for chemosensitive DLBCL patients between 2000 and 2011 in 2 cohorts based on time to relapse from diagnosis. The early rituximab failure (ERF) cohort consisted of patients with primary refractory disease or those with first relapse within 1year of initial diagnosis. The ERF cohort was compared with those relapsing >1year after initial diagnosis (late rituximab failure [LRF] cohort). ERF and LRF cohorts included 300 and 216 patients, respectively. Nonrelapse mortality (NRM), progression/relapse, progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS) of ERF versus LRF cohorts at 3years were 9% (95% confidence interval [CI], 6% to 13%) versus 9% (95% CI, 5% to 13%), 47% (95% CI, 41% to 52%) versus 39% (95% CI, 33% to 46%), 44% (95% CI, 38% to 50%) versus 52% (95% CI, 45% to 59%), and 50% (95% CI, 44% to 56%) versus 67% (95% CI, 60% to 74%), respectively. On multivariate analysis, ERF was not associated with higher NRM (relative risk [RR], 1.31; P=34). The ERF cohort had a higher risk of treatment failure (progression/relapse or death) (RR, 2.08; P < .001) and overall mortality (RR, 3.75; P <001) within the first 9months after autologous HCT. Beyond this period, PFS and OS were not significantly different between the ERF and LRF cohorts. Autologous HCT provides durable disease control to a sizeable subset of DLBCL despite ERF (3-year PFS, 44%) and remains the standard-of-care in chemosensitive DLBCL regardless of the timing of disease relapse.
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