Primary brain lymphomas after kidney transplantation: presentation and outcome

Transplantation. 2003 Sep 27;76(6):930-7. doi: 10.1097/01.TP.0000079253.06061.52.


Background: Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the second most frequent neoplasia following solid-organ transplantation. The objective of this study is to describe the clinical, histologic, and radiologic features of primary posttransplantation brain lymphomas (PTBL) in addition to their outcome.

Methods: Twenty-five kidney transplant patients with histologically proven PTBL from 11 French centers were retrospectively investigated.

Results: Immunosuppressive regimen included induction with antithymocyte globulins (ATG) in 20 patients. Median overall delay between transplantation and lymphoma was 18 months (4-264). Six of 10 patients with late posttransplantation brain lymphomas (PTBL) occurrence (>3 years) had been recently switched from azathioprine to mycophenolate mofetil (median switch lymphoma delay 14 months). Cerebral computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed multifocal lesions (n=18), with a ring contrast enhancement (n=20) similar to cerebral abscesses, as observed in HIV-related brain lymphomas. Histology showed large B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 87.5% of cases; Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) was detected in 95%. After lymphoma diagnosis, immunosuppressive treatment was reduced in all patients, and all but one received complementary treatment by surgery (n=2), anti-CD21 antibodies (n=2), chemotherapy including high-dose intravenous methotrexate (n=7), encephalic radiotherapy (n=5), or chemotherapy plus radiotherapy (n=8). Median overall survival was 26 months. Patients with a radiotherapy-based regimen seemed to have a longer survival (36 vs. 7 months, P<0.005).

Conclusions: Our study showed that PTBL are EBV-induced large B-cell lymphomas, which mimic cerebral abscesses on imaging and whose occurrence may be influenced by immunosuppression modifications. Treatment by radiotherapy is associated with better survival.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antilymphocyte Serum / therapeutic use
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Brain Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / mortality
  • Brain Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Intracranial Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Lymphoma / diagnosis
  • Lymphoma / epidemiology*
  • Lymphoma / mortality
  • Lymphoma / radiotherapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antilymphocyte Serum
  • Immunosuppressive Agents