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Capsules

Undertreatment for lymphoma is 'alarming pattern'

September 27, 2004|Newsday

Nearly half of patients with an aggressive form of lymphoma did not receive the recommended dose of chemotherapy, researchers have found in an analysis of 567 oncology practices nationwide.

The undertreatment veers from a chemotherapy schedule set by national guidelines and reduces chances for remission or cure, doctors say.

"This is an alarming pattern," said Dr. Gary Lyman, lead investigator of the study and director of health services and outcomes at the Wilmot Cancer Center of the University of Rochester in New York.

Lyman and colleagues analyzed the cases of 4,522 people diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and discovered that 48% received less than 85% of the recommended chemotherapy dosage. Because the study included so many patients at a large number of oncology practices across the country, it is likely, Lyman said, that the tendency to undertreat is deeply ingrained and affects a vast number of patients with the disease.

The research team defined undertreatment as interruptions in care or reductions in dosage. Both occurred to avoid chemotherapy's nagging side effects. The standard of care involves powerful drugs infused and taken as pills over 24 weeks.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society estimates that 54,370 people will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma this year and that 19,410 patients will die of it.

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