Influenza vaccination is generally recommended for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) patients, but no data are available about the activity of this vaccine after treatment with rituximab-containing regimens. We evaluated the humoral response to the trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine in a group of NHL patients in complete remission for ≥6 mo (median, 29 mo) after treatment with rituximab-containing regimens (n = 31) compared with age-matched healthy subjects (n = 34). B cell populations and incidence of influenza-like illness were also evaluated. For each viral strain, the response was significantly lower in patients compared with controls and was particularly poor in patients treated with fludarabine-based regimens. In the patient group, the response to vaccination did not fulfill the immunogenic criteria based on the European Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use requirements. Among the patients, CD27+ memory B cells were significantly reduced, and their reduction correlated with serum IgM levels and vaccine response. Episodes of influenza-like illness were recorded only in patients. These results showed that NHL patients treated with rituximab-containing regimens have persisting perturbations of B cell compartments and Ig synthesis and may be at particular risk for infection, even in long-standing complete remission.
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