European Journal of Cancer 32A(3): 470-479, 1996.
Denham JW, Denham E, Dear KB, et al.
The follicular lymphomas pursue an indolent course in many patients. Long-term follow-up in large series is therefore necessary to establish whether cure is taking place, and if so, at what stage in the dissemination of the disease process it becomes unlikely. The time to, and site of relapse, together with its impact on survival has been studied in 398 patients entered into the British National Lymphoma Investigation limited and disseminated disease trials between 1974 and 1980. Relapse data were compared with various models to obtain maximum likelihood estimates of the proportions permanently remaining relapse-free following treatment. Long-term relapse-free survival was observed in 54.8 +/- 14.9% (95% CI) of patients at 15 years with Ann Arbor stage I disease, 29.2 +/- 13.6% in patients with stage II disease, 18.1 +/- 6.6% with stage III and 13.0 +/- 5.9% with IV disease. Relapse time-course data for all trial arms conform closely to lognormal distributions allowing maximum likelihood estimates of proportions remaining permanently relapse-free to be derived. Using this methodology, over a quarter of patients treated with involved radiotherapy alone or radiotherapy plus 6 months of chlorambucil in the limited disease (Ann Arbor stage I and II) trial are unlikely to relapse at any time in the future. Over 10% of patients treated in the disseminated disease trials with disease classified as Ann Arbor stage III are also statistically unlikely to relapse. The finding that a proportion of patients is statistically unlikely to experience a clinically obvious relapse is consistent with clinical cure. It is especially interesting that a small proportion of patients with disseminated disease and treated by chemotherapy have fallen into this category, but additional data are required to know at what point statistical cure becomes unlikely. Whether "clinical cure" is the same as "pathological cure" in this disease remains uncertain.
Rheinische Friedrich- Wilhelms- Universität Bonn