A second grade A recommendation was rituximab maintenance therapy in patients with mantle cell lymphoma undergoing auto-HCT after first-line therapy. In these patients, a randomized trial has shown improved progression-free and overall survival with this maintenance regimen compared with observation alone.3

Rituximab maintenance was also recommended in rituximab-naive patients with follicular lymphoma. This recommendation was based primarily on data from the EBMT study,4 which showed that rituximab maintenance after transplant was safe and significantly prolonged progression-free (but not overall) survival.

“However, the panel acknowledges that rituximab-naive status at the time of auto-HCT in patients with FL in the current era would be rare, thus limiting the clinical impact of this statement,” the panelists wrote.

According to Henry Chi Hang Fung, MD, FACP, director of the Fox Chase-Temple University Hospital Bone Marrow Transplant Program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, these recommendations do not necessarily offer up any new data, but instead represent the opinion of bone marrow transplant experts.

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“These are all based on studies that have already been published, some quite some time ago,” Dr Fung noted. “Because these are from multiple transplant societies, the target audience is definitely transplant doctors, who are highly specialized.”

“It is good to get everyone on the same page with recommendations like these, where there is consensus, and of equal importance are the areas where there is no consensus, like in DLBCL [diffuse large B-cell lymphoma],” Dr Fung said.

Dr Fung was referring to a final grade A consensus statement recommending against post-transplant maintenance therapy in patients with DLBCL.

According to Dr Hamadani, in patients with DLBCL, some clinicians may give maintenance therapy off-label, but there is a lack of evidence base for this.

“Maintenance therapies, even with older drugs like rituximab, are not free from side effects and are expensive,” Dr Hamadani said. “We reviewed all trials looking at rituximab after transplant in DLBCL and the studies were negative. They don’t show any survival benefit.”

Ongoing clinical trials looking at target therapies in DLBCL may change this recommendation in the future, but clinical trial data are not yet mature.


  1. Kanate AS, Kumar A, Dreger P, et al. Maintenance therapies for Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas after autologous transplantation: A consensus project of ASBMT, CIBMTR, and the Lymphoma Working Party of EBMT [published online February 28, 2019]. JAMA Oncol. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.6278
  2. Moskowitz CH, Nademanee A, Masszi T, et al.; AETHERA Study Group. Brentuximab vedotin as consolidation therapy after autologous stem-cell transplantation in patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at risk of relapse or progression (AETHERA): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trial. Lancet. 2015;385(9980):1853-1862.
  3. Dietrich S, Weidle J, Rieger M, et al. Rituximab maintenance therapy after autologous stem cell transplantation prolongs progression-free survival in patients with mantle cell lymphoma. Leukemia. 2014;28(3):708-709.
  4. Le Gouill S, Thieblemont C, Oberic L, et al. Rituximab after autologous stem-cell transplantation in mantle-cell lymphoma. N Engl J Med. 2017;377(13):1250-1260.
  5. Pettengell R, Schmitz N, Gisselbrecht C, et al. Rituximab purging and/or maintenance in patients undergoing autologous transplantation for relapsed follicular lymphoma: a prospective randomized trial from the lymphoma working party of the European group for blood and marrow transplantation. J Clin Oncol. 2013;31(13):1624-1630.