High-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) is the standard approach for chemosensitive, relapsed aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). Various conditioning regimens have been used as treatment before ASCT and disease-free (DFS) and overall survival (OS) rates range from 34 to 60% and 26 to 46%, respectively. To date, few comparative randomized trials have been performed and no regimen has demonstrated superiority to another. Reduction of disease relapse remains the major hurdle for improving patient outcome and in vitro and in vivo purging of lymphoma cells has not necessarily enhanced results. Rituximab pre-mobilization and post-transplant appear to provide better response rates with OS approaching 87-91% at 2-3 years. Newer approaches with radioimmunotherapy may raise DFS to 78% and OS to 93%, albeit with short follow-up. Advances in the conditioning regimens and supportive care have reduced transplant-related mortality to less than 10%. In this review we discuss commonly utilized conditioning regimens, describe their pros and cons and address purging and present conditioning strategies. Owing to the poor outcome with conventional chemotherapy in mantle cell, Burkitt's and T-cell lymphoma, we propose the standard approach of front-line ASCT for these high-risk lymphoma patients. Finally, we will present novel strategies, which can enhance the anti-lymphoma effect, at the same time reducing toxicity, to improve the outcome of ASCT in NHL patients.
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