Survival Rates for Patients with Burkitt’s Lymphoma Improve, Especially among Young Adults


Key Points

  • Survival of patients with Burkitt’s lymphoma has improved substantially in the United States over the past decade, especially among young adults.
  • Survival of patients with Burkitt’s lymphoma remains relatively low among the general population, particularly among older and African American patients.
  • More effective therapies are needed in the treatment of Burkitt’s lymphoma for older patients, along with better access to modern therapy for younger patients.

Although Burkitt’s lymphoma remains one of the most highly aggressive forms of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, a recent study published in Blood has found a marked improvement in patient survival over the past decade, especially in young adults.

Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, used the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database to describe time trends in the incidence and outcomes of patients with newly diagnosed Burkitt’s lymphoma during 1973–2008. Patients were divided into two time periods (1973–2001 and 2002–2008) based on their year of diagnosis, with the later time frame expected to reflect improvements in HIV management, Burkitt’s lymphoma treatment, and supportive care. Researchers then examined the impact of era on survival rates based on patients’ age, stage of disease, and race.

Study Results

The researchers found that the incidence of Burkitt’s lymphoma in the United States increased from 0.5 cases per 1 million population per year in the 1970s to > 4.18 cases per 1 million population per year in 2008. The largest increase in incidence occurred in the second half of the 1980s, mostly among men, which likely reflects the epidemics of HIV infection, said the researchers.

There was a substantial improvement in the overall survival of patients with newly diagnosed Burkitt’s lymphoma during 2002–2008 (n = 1,922) relative to 1973–2001 (n =1,769), with 5-year relative survival estimates of 56% and 43%, respectively (P < .001). Five-year relative survival improved from 71% to 87% for ages 0 to 19 (n = 970), 35% to 60% for ages 20 to 39 (n = 897), 28% to 48% for ages 40 to 59 (n = 1,047), and from 25% to 33% for ages 60 or older (n = 777).

Older Age and Race Are Factors in Survival

In multivariable analysis utilizing Cox regression, being diagnosed in the 2002–2008 time period and being white were associated with lower mortality rates, while older age and advanced stage of disease were associated with higher mortality rates.

“Safer and more efficacious therapies are needed for older patients with Burkitt’s lymphoma along with improved access to modern chemoimmunotherapy for younger patients,” concluded the researchers.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.