Is there a role for "watch and wait" in follicular lymphoma in the rituximab era?

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Abstract

The paradigm of "watch and wait" for low-tumor-burden follicular lymphoma (LTB-FL) was established in an era when the treatment options were more limited. With the introduction of rituximab, it appears that the natural history of this incurable disease has changed. However, most of the contemporary treatment data have been generated in patients with high tumor burden, and it is unclear whether the improvements in outcome also apply to the LTB population. There are no published trials evaluating rituximab-chemotherapy combinations and just a few studies evaluating single-agent rituximab in this population. As a result, there are many unknowns in the management of LTB-FL. Would the application of rituximab-chemotherapy combination cure a fraction of patients? Would the application of rituximab-chemotherapy combination improve the overall survival of the population? Would treatment with single-agent rituximab improve the psychologic quality of life by avoiding a watch and wait interval or by delaying the time to first chemotherapy? This review, a mixture of data and opinion, will discuss goals of therapy for an LTB-FL patient, summarize existing data, and propose a management algorithm.

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