Kenneth B. Hymes, MD | Authors

Choices in the Treatment of Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma

February 01, 2007

Mycosis fungoides is responsive to treatment in the early stages; patients have a long duration of survival but are rarely cured of the disease. Therefore, patients require long-term, sequential therapies with as little toxicity as possible. In the early stages, skin-directed therapies, such as psoralen plus ultraviolet A in combination with retinoids or interferon, generally produce good, long-term responses. Once the disease progresses, systemic agents such as cytokines and retinoids are introduced. The cytokines provide a rational treatment approach for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) and produce good, long-lasting responses with few immunosuppressant effects. Denileukin diftitox (Ontak) has also been shown to produce good treatment effects, and its toxic effects can usually be controlled using prophylactic therapies. The synthetic retinoid bexarotene (Targretin) is taken orally and produces high response rates in CTCL, with a good long-term tolerability profile. Conventional systemic chemotherapies produce rapid responses and high response rates in CTCL, but these are generally of short duration and accompanied by myelosuppression and immunosuppression. Current treatment strategies therefore consist of the use of initial skin-directed therapies, with the addition of low-toxicity systemic biologic agents as the disease progresses; patients who do not respond to biologic agents should then receive conventional chemotherapies, starting with single agents and progressing to combination therapies.