Background Primary cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCLs) are malignancies characterized by a clonal T-cell infiltrate involving the skin. CTCLs often show resistance to conventional antineoplastic chemotherapy. Gemcitabine is a pyrimidine analogue which has shown efficacy and a favourable safety profile in solid tumours and haematological malignancies.
Objectives We report a multicentre retrospective study of 23 patients who received gemcitabine for advanced-stage CTCL and emphasize the high incidence of serious unusual adverse events.
Methods We collected data from 23 patients with refractory CTCL (14 mycosis fungoides, six Sézary syndrome and three other CTCL). Gemcitabine was given weekly within a 21- or 28-day schedule. Response was evaluated after three and six cycles of chemotherapy. For each patient, all adverse events were recorded.
Results Of the 16 patients who received at least three cycles of gemcitabine, 10 achieved a response (62·5%). Only five patients reached the sixth cycle of treatment and four still had a favourable response. Haematological toxicity was recorded in 15 cases with severe grade 3 or 4 neutropenia in seven patients (30%) and six serious infections (26%). Other serious adverse events were observed in six cases (26%): one haemolytic–uraemic syndrome, one severe capillary leak syndrome, one acute heart failure related to cardiac arrhythmia, two bullous and erosive dermatitis, and one recurrent influenza-like syndrome with altered general condition.
Conclusions Our study confirms the early efficacy of gemcitabine in advanced-stage CTCL. However, our results contradict the safety profile of gemcitabine previously reported and underline the high incidence of severe complications including visceral and cutaneous involvement.