Another group "would say that there's potentially better quality of life during the period without disease," Rosen said. "But the psychological benefits from not having any evidence of disease are hard to measure."
In a comment accompanying the report in The Lancet, Dr. Jonathan Friedberg, of the hematology and oncology division at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., wrote that "an analysis of cost-effectiveness would be very helpful."
"In an era of increased health-care costs, what benefit is necessary to justify the cost of this maintenance strategy, which at my institution would cost Medicare more than $60,000 per patient?" Friedberg asked.
He also described as premature the researchers' statement that maintenance therapy with the drug should be prescribed for all people with follicular lymphoma who are initially treated with rituximab plus chemotherapy.
"However, maintenance is an option," Friedberg said, adding that "the investigators are to be congratulated for this important contribution and are strongly encouraged to continue follow-up of these patients to answer the questions that remain."
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on lymphoma.
-- Randy Dotinga
SOURCES: Steven T. Rosen, M.D., director, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Northwestern University, Chicago; The Lancet, news release, Dec. 21, 2010
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