Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy with detection of JC virus in a patient with chronic lymphocytic leukemia parallel to onset of fludarabine therapy

Leuk Lymphoma. 2003 Oct;44(10):1815-8. doi: 10.1080/1042819031000116625.


Along with the establishment of more intense chemotherapeutic regimens including fludarabine for the treatment of indolent lymphoproliferative diseases like chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), an increasing amount of cases with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) due to JC virus have been observed. We report a patient with CLL who developed PML parallel to the onset of fludarabine therapy. Spinal fluid was tested positive for JC virus. Despite virostatic treatment with cidofovir, neurologic symptoms were progressive and the disease ultimately fatal. The present case suggests that immunosuppression caused by chronic lymphoproliferative malignancies alone may be a factor in the development of PML. Chemotherapy with fludarabine may act as an additional trigger. The question remains whether serologic screening for JC virus in patients with chronic lymphoproliferative disease undergoing intense chemotherapy might be valuable once sufficient antiviral treatment has been established.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • JC Virus / genetics
  • JC Virus / isolation & purification*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / drug therapy*
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / diagnosis
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / virology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Vidarabine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vidarabine / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • DNA, Viral
  • Vidarabine
  • fludarabine