Treatment of posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease with rituximab: the remission, the relapse, and the complication

Transplantation. 2002 Jan 15;73(1):100-4. doi: 10.1097/00007890-200201150-00019.


Background: Rituximab, a humanized anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, is a promising new tool for the treatment of posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD), especially for patients transplanted with rejection prone transplants of vital organs, such as patients after lung transplantation. Thus far, no major complications have been described. We treated three lung transplant recipients with Rituximab because of PTLD.

Methods: Patients were treated with four weekly doses of 375 mg/m2 of Rituximab. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) DNA was monitored with quantitative-competitive polymerase chain reaction and circulating B cells with flow cytometry.

Results: Treatment with Rituximab resulted in a complete remission in all patients without signs of or progression of bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome. Patient 1 relapsed after 2 months with a partly CD20-negative PTLD but is in stable remission after radiotherapy. Patient 2 is in complete remission 16 months after treatment, but patient 3 developed a hypogammaglobulinemia and died of invasive aspergillosis after 6 months. EBV DNA was detectable in the blood samples of patients 2 and 3 before treatment with Rituximab and became negative instantly after Rituximab. In all three patients, B cells are absent in the peripheral blood 7 months (at death), 16 months, and 16 months after treatment with Rituximab. Antiproliferating agents, such as mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), might prolong B-cell depletion.

Conclusions: Rituximab was effective for the treatment of PTLD without progression of transplant dysfunction in our patients. Complications were a partly CD20-negative relapse of PTLD and a hypogammaglobulinemia. Attention should be paid to immunoglobulin G (IgG) levels, especially in patients treated with antiproliferating agents such as MMF.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Lung Transplantation / physiology*
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Postoperative Complications / drug therapy*
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rituximab
  • Time Factors


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • DNA, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Rituximab