Changes in the natural history of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy in HIV-negative lymphoproliferative disorders: impact of novel therapies

Am J Hematol. 2005 Dec;80(4):271-81. doi: 10.1002/ajh.20492.


The aims of this study were to evaluate the clinical characteristics of HIV-negative patients affected by lymphoproliferative disorders (LPD) who developed progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), to delineate the risk factors, and to analyze whether the new antineoplastic therapies are changing the natural history of this infectious disease. We retrospectively analyzed 46 cases with confirmed LPD-associated PML published from 1958 to 2004. Patients were stratified according to two different time periods: group A included patients diagnosed before 1989, and group B included patients diagnosed since 1990, after introduction of purine analogues. Group A patients (n = 22) had received alkylating agents and/or radiotherapy, and the majority (63.6%) had advanced Hodgkin disease. At univariate analysis, uncontrolled Hodgkin disease was the only risk factor for PML. In group B patients (n = 24), the most frequent treatments received were purine analogues (58.3%) and high-dose therapy with hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (33.3%; HDT/HSCT). B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (45.8%) and aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma (24.9%) were the most frequent underlying LPDs. Patients treated with purine analogues were more likely to have active LPD, lower CD4 cell counts, and to be older and male than were HSCT recipients. The median interval from purine analogues or HDT/HSCT to PML was 11 months. In HDT/HSCT recipients, this interval was delayed for 10 months when peri-transplantation rituximab was used. Univariate analysis identified age >55 years, male sex, and CD4 cell counts <or=0.2 x 10(9)/L as risk factors for PML in patients treated with purine analogues. Mortality rates were 95.4% (group A patients), 90% (purine analogues), and 62.5% (HDT/HSCT recipients). At univariate analysis, the only factor that significantly correlated with recovery from infection was female sex. Our findings indicate (1) the possible reduction in reported cases associated with Hodgkin disease and the increasing number of published cases associated with the new antineoplastic therapies (purine analogues and HDT/HSCT); (2) among patients treated with purine analogues, PML is more common in male patients with CD4 cell counts <or=0.2 x 10(9)/L; (3) the use of rituximab after HDT/HSCT seems to delay the onset of PML; and (4) the prognosis is slightly better in transplant recipients.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alkylating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Combined Modality Therapy / history
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • HIV*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / complications
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / history
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / mortality
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / therapy*
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / complications
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / history
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / mortality
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Purines / therapeutic use
  • Radiotherapy / history
  • Radiotherapy / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Rituximab
  • Sex Factors
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / history
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods


  • Alkylating Agents
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Purines
  • Rituximab