• Burkitt leukemia;
  • Burkitt lymphoma;
  • chemotherapy;
  • central nervous system prophylaxis non-Hodgkin lymphoma;
  • small noncleaved cell lymphoma



The objective of the current study was to evaluate the efficacy of intensive chemotherapy with and without cranial radiation for central nervous system (CNS) prophylaxis in adults with Burkitt leukemia or lymphoma.


Patients received 18 weeks of therapy. Prophylactic cranial radiation (2400 centigrays) and 12 doses of triple intrathecal chemotherapy were administered to the first cohort of patients. A subsequent cohort received the same therapy, with the exceptions that intrathecal therapy was reduced to six doses and radiotherapy was administered only to high-risk individuals.


The median follow-up durations were 6.8 years in Cohort 1 and 4.1 years in Cohort 2. Three occurrences of transverse myelitis, 2 severe neuropathies, 3 cases of aphasia, and 1 case of blindness were documented in the first cohort of 52 patients (Cohort 1). In the subsequent cohort of 40 patients (Cohort 2), none of these occurrences were observed, and patients experienced less neurologic toxicity overall (61% vs. 26%; P = 0.001). Responses were similar, and the 3-year event-free survival rate was 0.52 (95% confidence interval, 0.38–0.65) for Cohort 1 and 0.45 (0.29–0.60) for Cohort 2.


Intensive, short-duration chemotherapy with less intensive CNS prophylaxis led to control at this sanctuary site with little neurotoxicity and may be curative for adults with Burkitt leukemia or lymphoma. Cancer 2004;100:1438–48. ©2004 by the American Cancer Society.