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Chemotherapy is the mainstay of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) treatment. Based on expert opinion, the use of radiotherapy (RT) is currently preferred in some institutions as consolidative treatment for patients with localized disease. The lack of conclusive data coming from conflicting studies about the impact of treatment demands a systematic review, which could provide the most reliable assessment for clinical decision-making. We evaluate the addition of RT post-CT, for aggressive and localized NHL (ALNHL).
Randomized controlled trials (RCT) that evaluated chemotherapy alone versus chemotherapy plus RT were searched in databases. The outcomes were overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS), overall response rate (ORR) and toxicity. Risk ratio (RR) and hazard ratio (HR) with their respective 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using a fized-effect model.
Four trials (1,796 patients) met the inclusion criteria. All trials tested the use of RT after systemic therapy comprising anthracycline-based chemotherapy. This systematic review showed that RT enhances PFS after chemotherapy (hazard ratio [HR] 0.81; 95% CI 0.67-0.98; p=0.03), with no impact on ORR and OS. Some heterogeneity between trials could limit the conclusions about OS. Toxicity data could not be pooled due to differences in reporting adverse events.
This systematic review with meta-analysis shows no improvement in survival when adding RT to systemic therapy for ALNHL. Our conclusions are limited by the available data. Further evaluations of new RT technologies and its association with biologic agents are needed.