The treatment of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-related post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is still unsatisfactory. We conducted a prospective trial to evaluate the impact of routine EBV surveillance and preemptive treatment with the anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody rituximab on the development of PTLD in pediatric recipients of extensively T-cell depleted HSCT from an HLA-haploidentical relative. Twenty-seven patients were included in the surveillance program, 12 developed EBV DNA positivity, with 8 of 12 presenting with sustained viral DNA levels requiring treatment with rituximab. Treatment was well tolerated, and induced clearance of EBV DNA in all patients. However, 4/8 patients showed a new increase in EBV load, coincident with the emergence of CD20 -/ CD19 + B cells in peripheral blood, accompanied by overt PTLD in 3 patients. The latter cleared PTLD after receiving donor EBV-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs), and persist in remission at a median 30-month follow-up. EBV-specific T-cell frequency, undetectable at time of EBV DNA positivity, was restored by T-cell therapy to levels comparable with controls. We conclude that preemptive therapy with rituximab is safe, but only partly effective in haplo-HSCT recipients. Patients who progress to PTLD under rituximab treatment can be rescued permanently by infusion of EBV-specific CTLs.
- Cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
- Epstein-Barr virus
- Pediatric hematopoietic stem cell transplantation
- Posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder
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