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Mycosis Fungoides and the Sézary Syndrome Treatment (PDQ®)

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Stage I Mycosis Fungoides

Since several forms of treatment can produce complete resolution of skin lesions in this stage, the choice of therapy is dependent on local expertise and the facilities available. With therapy, the survival of patients with stage IA disease can be expected to be the same as age and gender-matched controls.[1,2]

Treatment options:[3]

  1. Psoralen and ultraviolet A radiation (PUVA). Therapeutic trials with PUVA have shown a 62% to 90% complete remission rate with early cutaneous stages achieving the best responses. Continued maintenance therapy with PUVA at more protracted intervals is generally required to prolong remission duration.[4-6] PUVA combined with interferon alpha-2a is associated with a high response rate.[7]
  2. Total-skin electron-beam radiation. Electron radiation of appropriate energies will penetrate only to the dermis, and thus the skin alone can be treated without systemic effects. This therapy requires considerable technical expertise to deliver, can result in short- and long-term cutaneous toxic effects, and is not widely available. Based on the long-term survival of these early stage patients, electron-beam radiation therapy is sometimes used with curative intent.[8-11] Long-term disease-free survival can be achieved in patients with unilesional mycosis fungoides treated with local radiation therapy.[12]
  3. Ultraviolet B radiation is under clinical evaluation.
  4. Symptomatic management with topical corticosteroids.
  5. Topical mechlorethamine (nitrogen mustard). Topical application of mechlorethamine has produced regression of cutaneous lesions, with particular efficacy in early stages of disease. The overall complete remission rate is related to skin stage; 50% to 80% of TNM classification T1, and 25% to 75% of T2 patients have complete responses. Treatments are usually continued for 2 to 3 years. Continuous 5-year disease-free survival may be possible in as many as 33% of T1 patients.[8,13,14]
  6. Local electron-beam radiation or orthovoltage radiation therapy may be used to palliate areas of bulky or symptomatic skin disease.[15]
  7. Interferon-alpha alone or in combination with topical therapy, as evidenced in the ECOG-1495 trial.
  8. Bexarotene, an oral or topical retinoid (NCT00255801).[16,17]
  9. Oral methotrexate (NCT00425555).[18]
  10. Pegylated liposomal doxorubicin.[19]
  11. Vorinostat or romidepsin or other histone deacetylase inhibitors.[20-22]
  12. Pralatrexate (folate analog).[23]
  13. Denileukin diftitox (interleukin-2 fused with diphtheria toxin).[24,25]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage I mycosis fungoides/Sezary syndrome. 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.


  1. Kim YH, Jensen RA, Watanabe GL, et al.: Clinical stage IA (limited patch and plaque) mycosis fungoides. A long-term outcome analysis. Arch Dermatol 132 (11): 1309-13, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Zackheim HS, Amin S, Kashani-Sabet M, et al.: Prognosis in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma by skin stage: long-term survival in 489 patients. J Am Acad Dermatol 40 (3): 418-25, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Trautinger F, Knobler R, Willemze R, et al.: EORTC consensus recommendations for the treatment of mycosis fungoides/Sézary syndrome. Eur J Cancer 42 (8): 1014-30, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Herrmann JJ, Roenigk HH Jr, Hurria A, et al.: Treatment of mycosis fungoides with photochemotherapy (PUVA): long-term follow-up. J Am Acad Dermatol 33 (2 Pt 1): 234-42, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Ramsay DL, Lish KM, Yalowitz CB, et al.: Ultraviolet-B phototherapy for early-stage cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Arch Dermatol 128 (7): 931-3, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Querfeld C, Rosen ST, Kuzel TM, et al.: Long-term follow-up of patients with early-stage cutaneous T-cell lymphoma who achieved complete remission with psoralen plus UV-A monotherapy. Arch Dermatol 141 (3): 305-11, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Kuzel TM, Roenigk HH Jr, Samuelson E, et al.: Effectiveness of interferon alfa-2a combined with phototherapy for mycosis fungoides and the Sézary syndrome. J Clin Oncol 13 (1): 257-63, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Chinn DM, Chow S, Kim YH, et al.: Total skin electron beam therapy with or without adjuvant topical nitrogen mustard or nitrogen mustard alone as initial treatment of T2 and T3 mycosis fungoides. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 43 (5): 951-8, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Quirós PA, Jones GW, Kacinski BM, et al.: Total skin electron beam therapy followed by adjuvant psoralen/ultraviolet-A light in the management of patients with T1 and T2 cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (mycosis fungoides). Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 38 (5): 1027-35, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Ysebaert L, Truc G, Dalac S, et al.: Ultimate results of radiation therapy for T1-T2 mycosis fungoides (including reirradiation). Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 58 (4): 1128-34, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Navi D, Riaz N, Levin YS, et al.: The Stanford University experience with conventional-dose, total skin electron-beam therapy in the treatment of generalized patch or plaque (T2) and tumor (T3) mycosis fungoides. Arch Dermatol 147 (5): 561-7, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Micaily B, Miyamoto C, Kantor G, et al.: Radiotherapy for unilesional mycosis fungoides. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 42 (2): 361-4, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Lessin SR, Duvic M, Guitart J, et al.: Topical chemotherapy in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: positive results of a randomized, controlled, multicenter trial testing the efficacy and safety of a novel mechlorethamine, 0.02%, gel in mycosis fungoides. JAMA Dermatol 149 (1): 25-32, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  14. de Quatrebarbes J, Estève E, Bagot M, et al.: Treatment of early-stage mycosis fungoides with twice-weekly applications of mechlorethamine and topical corticosteroids: a prospective study. Arch Dermatol 141 (9): 1117-20, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  15. Thomas TO, Agrawal P, Guitart J, et al.: Outcome of patients treated with a single-fraction dose of palliative radiation for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 85 (3): 747-53, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  16. Duvic M, Hymes K, Heald P, et al.: Bexarotene is effective and safe for treatment of refractory advanced-stage cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: multinational phase II-III trial results. J Clin Oncol 19 (9): 2456-71, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  17. Heald P, Mehlmauer M, Martin AG, et al.: Topical bexarotene therapy for patients with refractory or persistent early-stage cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: results of the phase III clinical trial. J Am Acad Dermatol 49 (5): 801-15, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  18. Zackheim HS, Kashani-Sabet M, McMillan A: Low-dose methotrexate to treat mycosis fungoides: a retrospective study in 69 patients. J Am Acad Dermatol 49 (5): 873-8, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  19. Wollina U, Dummer R, Brockmeyer NH, et al.: Multicenter study of pegylated liposomal doxorubicin in patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Cancer 98 (5): 993-1001, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  20. Duvic M, Dummer R, Becker JC, et al.: Panobinostat activity in both bexarotene-exposed and -naïve patients with refractory cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: results of a phase II trial. Eur J Cancer 49 (2): 386-94, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  21. Olsen EA, Kim YH, Kuzel TM, et al.: Phase IIb multicenter trial of vorinostat in patients with persistent, progressive, or treatment refractory cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 25 (21): 3109-15, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  22. Piekarz RL, Frye R, Turner M, et al.: Phase II multi-institutional trial of the histone deacetylase inhibitor romidepsin as monotherapy for patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 27 (32): 5410-7, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  23. Horwitz SM, Kim YH, Foss F, et al.: Identification of an active, well-tolerated dose of pralatrexate in patients with relapsed or refractory cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Blood 119 (18): 4115-22, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  24. Prince HM, Martin AG, Olsen EA, et al.: Denileukin diftitox for the treatment of CD25 low-expression mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome. Leuk Lymphoma 54 (1): 69-75, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  25. Prince HM, Duvic M, Martin A, et al.: Phase III placebo-controlled trial of denileukin diftitox for patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 28 (11): 1870-7, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: February 25, 2015