Reduction in immunosuppression as initial therapy for posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder: analysis of prognostic variables and long-term follow-up of 42 adult patients

Transplantation. 2001 Apr 27;71(8):1076-88. doi: 10.1097/00007890-200104270-00012.


Background: Posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) is an Epstein-Barr virus-associated malignancy that occurs in the setting of pharmacologic immunosuppression after organ transplantation. With the increased use of organ transplantation and intensive immunosuppression, this disease is becoming more common. We explore reduction in immunosuppression as an initial therapy for PTLD.

Methods: We analyzed our organ transplant patient database to identify patients with biopsy-proven PTLD who were initially treated with reduction of their immunosuppressive medications with or without surgical resection of all known disease.

Results: Forty-two adult patients were included in this study. Thirty patients were treated with reduction in immunosuppression alone. Twelve patients were treated with both reduction in immunosuppression and surgical resection of all known disease. Thirty-one of 42 patients (73.8%) achieved a complete remission. Of those patients who were treated with reduction in immunosuppression alone, 19 of 30 (63%) responded with a median time to documentation of response of 3.6 weeks. Multivariable analysis showed that elevated lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) ratio, organ dysfunction, and multi-organ involvement by PTLD were independent prognostic factors for lack of response to reduction in immunosuppression. In patients with none of these poor prognostic factors, 16 of 18 (89%) responded to reduction in immunosuppression in contrast to three of five (60%) with one risk factor and zero of seven (0%) with two to three factors present. The analysis also showed that increased age, elevated LDH ratio, severe organ dysfunction, presence of B symptoms (fever, night sweats, and weight loss), and multi-organ involvement by PTLD at the time of diagnosis are independent prognostic indicators for poor survival. With median follow-up of 147 weeks, 55% of patients are alive with 50% in complete remission.

Conclusions: Reduction in immunosuppression is an effective initial therapy for PTLD. Clinical prognostic factors may allow clinicians to identify which patients are likely to respond to reduction in immunosuppression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Black People
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / diagnosis
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / etiology
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Organ Transplantation*
  • Pennsylvania
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors
  • White People


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents