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Radiotherapy alone for stage I-III low grade follicular lymphoma: long-term outcome and comparison of extended field and total nodal irradiation

Matthias Guckenberger*, Nikolaus Alexandrow and Michael Flentje

Author Affiliations

Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Würzburg, Josef-Schneider-Str. 11, 97080, Würzburg, Germany

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Radiation Oncology 2012, 7:103  doi:10.1186/1748-717X-7-103

Published: 24 June 2012



To analyze long-term results of radiotherapy alone for stage I-III low grade follicular lymphoma and to compare outcome after extended field irradiation (EFI) and total nodal irradiation (TNI).

Methods and materials

Between 1982 and 2007, 107 patients were treated with radiotherapy alone for low grade follicular lymphoma at Ann Arbor stage I (n = 50), II (n = 36) and III (n = 21); 48 and 59 patients were treated with EFI and TNI, respectively. The median total dose in the first treatment series of the diaphragmatic side with larger lymphoma burden was 38 Gy (25 Gy – 50 Gy) and after an interval of median 30 days, a total dose of 28 Gy (12.6 Gy – 45 Gy) was given in the second treatment series completing TNI.


After a median follow-up of 14 years for living patients, 10-years and 15-years overall survival (OS) were 64% and 50%, respectively. Survival was not significantly different between stages I, II and III. TNI and EFI resulted in 15-years OS of 65% and 34% but patients treated with TNI were younger, had better performance status and higher stage of disease compared to patients treated with EFI. In multivariate analysis, only age at diagnosis (p < 0.001, relative risk [RR] 1.06) and Karnofsky performance status (p = 0.04, RR = 0.96) were significantly correlated with OS. Freedom from progression (FFP) was 58% and 56% after 10-years and 15-years, respectively. Recurrences outside the irradiated volume were significantly reduced after TNI compared to EFI; however, increased rates of in-field recurrences and extra-nodal out-of-field recurrence counterbalanced this effect resulting in no significant difference in FFP between TNI and EFI. In univariate analysis, FFP was significantly improved in stage I compared to stage II but no differences were observed between stages I/II and stage III. In multivariate analysis no patient or treatment parameter was correlated with FFP. Acute toxicity was significantly increased after TNI compared to EFI with a trend to increased late toxicity as well.


Radiotherapy alone for stage I and II follicular lymphoma resulted in long-term OS with high rates of disease control; no benefit of TNI over EFI was observed. For stage III follicular lymphoma, TNI achieved promising OS and FFP and should be considered as a potentially curative treatment option.

Follicular lymphoma; Total nodal irradiation; Extended field irradiation