Humanized anti-CD20 Monoclonal Antibody (Rituximab) Treatment for Post-Transplant Lymphoproliferative Disorder

Clin Transplant. 2003 Oct;17(5):417-22. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-0012.2003.00054.x.


Introduction: Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders (PTLD) is a consequence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection and is a B-cell hyperplasia with CD-20 positive lymphocytes. The treatment of PTLD includes reduction/withdrawal of immunosuppression and chemotherapy. This study reports our center experience with humanized monoclonal antibody against CD-20 (Rituximab) for the treatment of PTLD.

Material and methods: Eight cases of PTLD after solid organ transplantation [six kidney, one kidney/pancreas (KP) and one liver] occurred between September 1998 and October 2001. The mean time between transplant and the diagnosis of PTLD was 57.3 months (range 3 months to 10 yr). Five patients underwent cadaveric transplant, five males and six were Caucasians with mean age of 48 yr (range 20-67 yr).

Results: The clinical presentation was as follows: lymphadenopathy--5, gastrointestinal bleeding--2 and tonsillar enlargement--1. The diagnosis was made by a lymph node biopsy in five, a gastric ulcer biopsy in two and a tonsillar biopsy in one case. Six of them had polymorphous, two had monoclonal B-cell lymphoma, and all were positive for CD-20. Six were related to EBV, documented by latent membrane protein (LMP) or Epstein-Barr encoded RNA (EBER) staining. Immunosuppression at the time of PTLD diagnosis consisted of tacrolimus in six cases and cyclosporine A (CsA) in two with mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) and azathioprine--3 each and sirolimus--1. Rituximab was administered at a dose of 375 mg/m2 once a week for 4 wk. There were no side effects seen with this therapy. Immunosuppression was reduced in all patients. Complete remission was observed in seven cases (one required two courses). One patient who did not respond received chemotherapy. Patients were followed for a mean period of 22.5 months (range 10-45 months post-PTLD diagnosis. At the last follow-up all eight patients were alive, seven with a functioning graft and one on maintenance dialysis. Three of these patients had been in remission for more than 2.5 yr.

Conclusion: Rituximab is an effective agent in the treatment of PTLD without the morbidity characteristic of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy should be reserved only for those refractory to Rituximab therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / diagnosis
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / etiology
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Rituximab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Rituximab