The role of etoposide in the treatment of adult patients with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis

Timo C.E. Zondag, Aglina Lika, Jan A.M. van Laar*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a potentially fatal inflammatory clinical condition, in which an exaggerated immune response is ineffectively regulated. Although etoposide-containing regimens are generally recommended for children with HLH, the exact role of etoposide in the adult setting remains unclear. We performed a systematic review of the literature on the use of etoposide in adults with HLH. All articles written in English on the use of etoposide in adults with HLH available from seven databases and published on or before July 2021 were analyzed. Thirteen studies were found to be relevant to the search results. Ten of these studies report a statistical analysis on the effect of etoposide, of which five found etoposide-containing regimens superior to non-etoposide-containing regimens. Seven studies provided sufficient data to be included in the meta-analysis. For these data, the estimated logit relative risk of etoposide on survival was 1.06 (95% confidence interval: 0.92–1.21, standard error: 2.06). The pooled data of the meta-analysis did thus not support a beneficial effect of etoposide. It should be taken into account that the presented results are highly susceptible to bias and that the effect of etoposide differs between HLH-triggers. Although the meta-analysis does not support the effect of etoposide, we do not recommend abandoning etoposide as treatment modality. The limitations of the meta-analysis, together with several individual articles confirming the benefit of etoposide, justify etoposide for select cases in adults with HLH such as refractory or severe disease with (threatening) multiorgan failure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalExperimental Hematology and Oncology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2023

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