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Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis Treatment (PDQ®)

  • Last Modified: 06/04/2014

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Treatment of Adult LCH

Standard Treatment Options
        Treatment of pulmonary LCH
        Treatment of bone LCH
        Treatment of single-system skin disease
        Chemotherapy for the treatment of single-system and multisystem disease
        Targeted therapies for the treatment of single-system and multisystem disease
Current Clinical Trials



Standard Treatment Options

The lack of clinical trials limits the ability to make evidence-based recommendations for adult patients with Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH).

Most investigators have previously recommended treatment according to the guidelines given above for standard treatment of children with Langerhans cell histiocytosis. It is unclear, however, whether adult LCH responds as well as the childhood form of the disease. In addition, the drugs used in the treatment of children are not as well-tolerated when used in adults. Excessive neurologic toxicity from vinblastine, for example, prompted closure of the LCH-A1 trial.

A consensus opinion reported on the evaluation and treatment of adult patients with LCH.[1] Discussion continues, however, particularly with regard to optimal first-line therapy with some experienced clinicians preferring to start with vinblastine and prednisone and others with alternative therapy, such as single-agent cytosine arabinoside or cladribine.

Treatment of pulmonary LCH

It is difficult to judge the effectiveness of various treatments for pulmonary LCH because patients can recover spontaneously or have stable disease without treatment. Smoking cessation is mandatory because the apparent causal effect of smoking in pulmonary LCH.[2] It is not known if steroid therapy is efficacious in the treatment of adult pulmonary LCH because reported case series did not control for smoking cessation. Most adult patients with LCH have gradual disease progression with continued smoking. The disease may regress or progress with the cessation of smoking.[3] Some patients have been reported to respond to cladribine therapy.

Lung transplantation may be necessary for adults with extensive pulmonary destruction from LCH.[4] This multicenter study reported 54% survival at 10 years posttransplant, with 20% of patients having recurrent LCH that did not impact survival; longer follow-up of these patients is needed. Another study confirmed an approximate 50% survival at 10 years and improved hemodynamic changes associated with pulmonary arterial hypertension, but did not alter pulmonary function testing or incidence of pulmonary edema.[5] The best strategy for follow-up of pulmonary LCH includes physical examination, chest radiographs, lung function tests, and high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scans.[6]

Treatment of bone LCH

As in children, adults with single-bone lesions should undergo curettage of the lesion followed by observation, with or without intralesional corticosteroids. Extensive or radical surgery leading to loss of function and disfigurement is contraindicated at any site, including the teeth or jaw bones. Systemic chemotherapy will cause bone lesions to regress and the involved teeth and jaw bones cannot reform. For those failing chemotherapy, low-dose radiation therapy may be indicated and should be tried before any radical surgery that leads to extensive loss of function and disfigurement. Radiation therapy is also indicated for impending neurological deficits from vertebral body lesions or visual problems from orbital lesions. A German cooperative radiation therapy group reported on a series of 98 adult patients with LCH, most of whom (60 of 98) had only bone lesions, and 24 had multisystem disease including bone, treated with radiation therapy.[7][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv] Of 89 evaluable patients, 77% achieved a complete remission, 9% developed an infield recurrence, and 15.7% (14 of 89) experienced a progression outside the radiation field(s).

A variety of chemotherapy regimens, including cladribine, have been published in the treatment of a relatively limited number of patients. (Refer to the Chemotherapy section of this summary for more information.)

Anecdotal reports have described the successful use of the bisphosphonate pamidronate in controlling severe bone pain in patients with multiple osteolytic lesions.[8-10] Successful use of oral bisphosphonates have also been described and may be a useful and relatively less toxic way of treating adult bone LCH.[11] Because of the increased toxicity of chemotherapy in adults, bisphosphonate therapy could be used before chemotherapy in multifocal bone disease. Response of other organs, such as skin and soft tissue, to bisphosphonate therapy has been reported.[12]

Another approach using anti-inflammatory agents (pioglitazone and rofecoxib) coupled with trofosfamide in a specific timed sequence was successful in two patients who had disease resistant to standard chemotherapy treatment.[13]

Treatment of single-system skin disease
  • Localized lesions can be treated by surgical excision, but as with bone, mutilating surgery, including hemivulvectomy, should be avoided unless the disease is refractory to available therapy.

  • Topical therapies are described in greater detail in the childhood isolated skin involvement section of this summary and include topical or intralesional corticosteroid, topical tacrolimus, imiquimod, psoralen and long-wave ultraviolet A radiation (PUVA), and UVB.[14] Therapies such as PUVA/UVB may be more useful in adults when consideration of long-term toxicity may be less.[15-17]

  • Systemic therapy for severe skin LCH includes oral methotrexate, oral thalidomide, oral interferon-alpha, or combinations of interferon and thalidomide.[18,19] Recurrences after stopping treatment may occur but may respond to re-treatment.

  • Oral isotretinoin has achieved remission in some refractory cases of skin LCH in adults.[20]

Chemotherapy for the treatment of single-system and multisystem disease

Chemotherapy is generally used for skin LCH associated with multisystem disease in adults.

  • A single-center, retrospective review of 58 adult patients with LCH reported on the efficacy and toxicities of treatment with vinblastine/prednisone, cladribine, and cytarabine. Patients treated with vinblastine/prednisone had the worst outcome, with 84% not responding within 6 weeks or relapsing within a year. The no-response/relapse rate was 59% for cladribine and 21% for cytarabine. Grade 3 or 4 neurologic toxic effects occurred in 75% of patients treated with vinblastine. Grade 3 or 4 neutropenia occurred in 37% of patients treated with cladribine and in 20% of patients receiving cytarabine.[21]

  • Etoposide has been used with some success in single-system and multisystem LCH. Use of prolonged oral etoposide in adults with skin LCH has been reported with minimal toxicity, while 3-day courses of intravenous etoposide (100 mg/m2/day) achieved complete remission in a small number of patients with resistant single-system and multisystem disease.[22] Another study at the same center found that azathioprine was the most successful drug for localized disease in adults, with the addition of etoposide for refractory and multisystem disease.[23]

  • For patients who do not respond to front-line therapy with etoposide, cladribine is effective for adults with skin, bone, lymph node, and probably pulmonary and central nervous system (CNS) disease.[24,25] The first study that used cladribine to treat refractory and recurrent skin LCH disease reported on three patients (aged 33, 51, and 57 years) who received two to four courses of cladribine at 0.7 mg/kg intravenously over 2 hours/day for 5 days.[24] In a series of five adults (one untreated and four with refractory LCH treated with cladribine at the same dose noted above), three patients achieved a complete remission and two patients achieved a partial remission.[25]

  • An adult lymphoma treatment regimen, methotrexate, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, prednisone and bleomycin (MACOP-B), was used in three patients with multisystem LCH and four with single-system multifocal bone LCH from 1995 to 2007.[26] Total duration of therapy was 12 weeks; response was seen in all patients, two with partial response and five with complete response. Three recurrences were seen after stopping therapy.[26] Despite the small number of patients and the retrospective nature of the study, MACOP-B may be useful as salvage therapy in adult patients with LCH and deserves further study.[27]

  • Anecdotal reports have described the successful use of the bisphosphonate pamidronate in controlling severe bone pain in patients with multiple osteolytic lesions.[8-10]

  • A case report suggests some benefit to treating neurodegenerative CNS LCH disease with infliximab, a tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitor.[28]

  • A report of stereotactic radiosurgery for the treatment of pituitary LCH in adults showed efficacy in reducing the masses.[29] However, radiation therapy is not considered the standard of care for children with pituitary involvement. Systemic chemotherapy with cytarabine and cladribine have been the preferred treatments.[30,31]

Targeted therapies for the treatment of single-system and multisystem disease

New targeted therapies under investigation include the following:

  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors: Imatinib mesylate has been effective in the treatment of four adult patients with LCH who had skin, lung, bone, and/or CNS involvement.[32,33] Another adult patient with LCH did not respond to imatinib mesylate.[34]

  • RAS pathway inhibitors: The finding that most patients with LCH demonstrate BRAF and other RAS pathway mutations has led to a successful trial of vemurafenib, a BRAF V600E inhibitor, in adult patients with Erdheim-Chester disease and LCH.[35] A number of clinical trials of BRAF and other RAS pathway inhibitors in adults and children with LCH are ongoing. NCT01677741 is one such trial.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with adult Langerhans cell histiocytosis. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

References
  1. Girschikofsky M, Arico M, Castillo D, et al.: Management of adult patients with Langerhans cell histiocytosis: recommendations from an expert panel on behalf of Euro-Histio-Net. Orphanet J Rare Dis 8: 72, 2013.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  2. Tazi A: Adult pulmonary Langerhans' cell histiocytosis. Eur Respir J 27 (6): 1272-85, 2006.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  3. Mogulkoc N, Veral A, Bishop PW, et al.: Pulmonary Langerhans' cell histiocytosis: radiologic resolution following smoking cessation. Chest 115 (5): 1452-5, 1999.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  4. Dauriat G, Mal H, Thabut G, et al.: Lung transplantation for pulmonary langerhans' cell histiocytosis: a multicenter analysis. Transplantation 81 (5): 746-50, 2006.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  5. Le Pavec J, Lorillon G, Jaïs X, et al.: Pulmonary Langerhans cell histiocytosis-associated pulmonary hypertension: clinical characteristics and impact of pulmonary arterial hypertension therapies. Chest 142 (5): 1150-1157, 2012.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  6. Abbritti M, Mazzei MA, Bargagli E, et al.: Utility of spiral CAT scan in the follow-up of patients with pulmonary Langerhans cell histiocytosis. Eur J Radiol 81 (8): 1907-12, 2012.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  7. Olschewski T, Seegenschmiedt MH: Radiotherapy of Langerhans' Cell Histiocytosis : Results and Implications of a National Patterns-of-Care Study. Strahlenther Onkol 182 (11): 629-34, 2006.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  8. Arzoo K, Sadeghi S, Pullarkat V: Pamidronate for bone pain from osteolytic lesions in Langerhans'-cell histiocytosis. N Engl J Med 345 (3): 225, 2001.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  9. Farran RP, Zaretski E, Egeler RM: Treatment of Langerhans cell histiocytosis with pamidronate. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 23 (1): 54-6, 2001.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  10. Brown RE: Bisphosphonates as antialveolar macrophage therapy in pulmonary langerhans cell histiocytosis? Med Pediatr Oncol 36 (6): 641-3, 2001.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  11. Kamizono J, Okada Y, Shirahata A, et al.: Bisphosphonate induces remission of refractory osteolysis in langerhans cell histiocytosis. J Bone Miner Res 17 (11): 1926-8, 2002.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  12. Morimoto A, Shioda Y, Imamura T, et al.: Nationwide survey of bisphosphonate therapy for children with reactivated Langerhans cell histiocytosis in Japan. Pediatr Blood Cancer 56 (1): 110-5, 2011.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  13. Reichle A, Vogt T, Kunz-Schughart L, et al.: Anti-inflammatory and angiostatic therapy in chemorefractory multisystem Langerhans' cell histiocytosis of adults. Br J Haematol 128 (5): 730-2, 2005.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  14. Vogel CA, Aughenbaugh W, Sharata H: Excimer laser as adjuvant therapy for adult cutaneous Langerhans cell histiocytosis. Arch Dermatol 144 (10): 1287-90, 2008.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  15. Rieker J, Hengge U, Ruzicka T, et al.: [Multifocal facial eosinophilic granuloma: successful treatment with topical tacrolimus]. Hautarzt 57 (4): 324-6, 2006.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  16. O'Kane D, Jenkinson H, Carson J: Langerhans cell histiocytosis associated with breast carcinoma successfully treated with topical imiquimod. Clin Exp Dermatol 34 (8): e829-32, 2009.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  17. Taverna JA, Stefanato CM, Wax FD, et al.: Adult cutaneous Langerhans cell histiocytosis responsive to topical imiquimod. J Am Acad Dermatol 54 (5): 911-3, 2006.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  18. McClain KL, Kozinetz CA: A phase II trial using thalidomide for Langerhans cell histiocytosis. Pediatr Blood Cancer 48 (1): 44-9, 2007.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  19. Steen AE, Steen KH, Bauer R, et al.: Successful treatment of cutaneous Langerhans cell histiocytosis with low-dose methotrexate. Br J Dermatol 145 (1): 137-40, 2001.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  20. Tsambaos D, Georgiou S, Kapranos N, et al.: Langerhans' cell histiocytosis: complete remission after oral isotretinoin therapy. Acta Derm Venereol 75 (1): 62-4, 1995.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  21. Cantu MA, Lupo PJ, Bilgi M, et al.: Optimal therapy for adults with Langerhans cell histiocytosis bone lesions. PLoS One 7 (8): e43257, 2012.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  22. Tsele E, Thomas DM, Chu AC: Treatment of adult Langerhans cell histiocytosis with etoposide. J Am Acad Dermatol 27 (1): 61-4, 1992.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  23. Munn SE, Olliver L, Broadbent V, et al.: Use of indomethacin in Langerhans cell histiocytosis. Med Pediatr Oncol 32 (4): 247-9, 1999.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  24. Saven A, Foon KA, Piro LD: 2-Chlorodeoxyadenosine-induced complete remissions in Langerhans-cell histiocytosis. Ann Intern Med 121 (6): 430-2, 1994.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  25. Pardanani A, Phyliky RL, Li CY, et al.: 2-Chlorodeoxyadenosine therapy for disseminated Langerhans cell histiocytosis. Mayo Clin Proc 78 (3): 301-6, 2003.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  26. Derenzini E, Fina MP, Stefoni V, et al.: MACOP-B regimen in the treatment of adult Langerhans cell histiocytosis: experience on seven patients. Ann Oncol 21 (6): 1173-8, 2010.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  27. Gadner H: Treatment of adult-onset Langerhans cell histiocytosis--is it different from the pediatric approach? Ann Oncol 21 (6): 1141-2, 2010.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  28. Chohan G, Barnett Y, Gibson J, et al.: Langerhans cell histiocytosis with refractory central nervous system involvement responsive to infliximab. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 83 (5): 573-5, 2012.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  29. Hong WC, Murovic JA, Gibbs I, et al.: Pituitary stalk Langerhans cell histiocytosis treated with CyberKnife radiosurgery. Clin Neurol Neurosurg 115 (5): 573-7, 2013.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  30. Dhall G, Finlay JL, Dunkel IJ, et al.: Analysis of outcome for patients with mass lesions of the central nervous system due to Langerhans cell histiocytosis treated with 2-chlorodeoxyadenosine. Pediatr Blood Cancer 50 (1): 72-9, 2008.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  31. Egeler RM, de Kraker J, Voûte PA: Cytosine-arabinoside, vincristine, and prednisolone in the treatment of children with disseminated Langerhans cell histiocytosis with organ dysfunction: experience at a single institution. Med Pediatr Oncol 21 (4): 265-70, 1993.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  32. Montella L, Insabato L, Palmieri G: Imatinib mesylate for cerebral Langerhans'-cell histiocytosis. N Engl J Med 351 (10): 1034-5, 2004.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  33. Janku F, Amin HM, Yang D, et al.: Response of histiocytoses to imatinib mesylate: fire to ashes. J Clin Oncol 28 (31): e633-6, 2010.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  34. Wagner C, Mohme H, Krömer-Olbrisch T, et al.: Langerhans cell histiocytosis: treatment failure with imatinib. Arch Dermatol 145 (8): 949-50, 2009.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  35. Haroche J, Cohen-Aubart F, Emile JF, et al.: Dramatic efficacy of vemurafenib in both multisystemic and refractory Erdheim-Chester disease and Langerhans cell histiocytosis harboring the BRAF V600E mutation. Blood 121 (9): 1495-500, 2013.  [PUBMED Abstract]