The pathogenesis of classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) is still enigmatic, largely because its tumor cells, the so-called Hodgkin and Reed-Stenberg (HRS) cells, invariably reside in a prominent reactive microenvironment, are rare and therefore difficult to analyze. On the other hand, the broadly investigated cHL-derived cell lines are not unequivocally considered as suitable and representative models for this puzzling disease. Based on current knowledge, it appears that the cross talk between the tumor cells and the reactive infiltrate of the microenvironment is complex and that multiple mechanisms occur, making cHL a very heterogeneous disease. In 20-40% of cHL cases, HRS cells carry a monoclonal infection by Epstein Barr virus (EBV), which is considered a tumor-initiating factor. In these cases, EBV shows a latency type II infection pattern with the expression of latent membrane protein-1 (LMP-1), a viral oncoprotein that mimics CD40 activation. This scenario is particularly intriguing for the pathogenesis of cHL arising in HIV-infected patients, which, for still obscure reasons, is invariably EBV-associated with LMP-1 expression in HRS cells. Recent evidences are consistent with the occurrence of different pathogenic pathways variably triggered by virus infections (EBV and HIV), genetic alterations, and interactions with critical microenvironmental components. This review focuses on the different microenvironmental niches that characterize cHL of the general population as well as cases of HIV-infected patients. A more comprehensive understanding of the complex interplay existing between HRS and tumor microenvironment is pivotal for the development of more effective treatments, particularly for relapsed or refractory diseases.
- classical Hodgkin lymphoma, EBV-associated Hodgkin lymphoma, HIV-associated Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, microenvironment, pathogenesis