Peripheral blood stem cell grafts from patients with lymphoma are often contaminated with neoplastic cells. Administration of a lymphoma-specific monoclonal antibody before collecting stem cells may be one way of reducing the contamination. Similarly, an antibody after transplantation at a time of minimal residual disease may increase the efficacy of the procedure. The objective of this study was to determine the safety of using rituximab as both an in vivo purging agent and a posttransplantation adjuvant. Eligible patients with lymphoma received 375 mg/m2 rituximab intravenously (IV) on day 1, 2.5 g/m2 cyclophosphamide IV on day 4, and 10 pg/kg per day filgrastim starting on day 5 and continuing until completion of leukapheresis. Patients subsequently received a standard preparative regimen and then received 375 mg/m2 rituximab IV 7 days after platelet independence was achieved. Twenty-five patients (14 men, 11 women; median age, 51 years) were enrolled. Of the 25 patients, 23 received transplants after at least 2.0 × 106 CD34+ cells/kg were harvested. As determined with a sensitive polymerase chain reaction assay, 6 of 7 stem cell products tested were free of tumor contamination. All patients engrafted promptly, and the rituximab infusions were well tolerated. Transient neutropenia of uncertain etiology occurred in 6 patients a median of 99.5 days posttransplantation. An additional patient developed progressive pancytopenia. Rituximab used as an in vivo purging agent and adjuvant immunotherapy with peripheral blood stem cell transplantation for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a well-tolerated regimen. However, the ultimate determination of efficacy will require the results of ongoing studies.
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