Infectious complications associated with alemtuzumab use for lymphoproliferative disorders

Clin Infect Dis. 2006 Jul 1;43(1):16-24. doi: 10.1086/504811. Epub 2006 May 17.


Background: Alemtuzumab is an emerging therapy for refractory lymphoproliferative disorders. The associated long-term risks of infection remain poorly defined.

Methods: From July 2001 through December 2003, all patients who received alemtuzumab for the treatment of lymphoproliferative disorders at 1 institution underwent a retrospective evaluation to document infectious complications until death or end of follow-up in October 2004. Alemtuzumab recipients who underwent allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation were compared with a concurrent cohort who also underwent allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation but did not receive alemtuzumab.

Results: Twenty-seven patients were identified (21 with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and 6 with plasma cell disorders). The overall mortality was 37%, with 7 of 10 deaths being related to infection. Significant opportunistic infections occurred in 9 patients (43%) with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, including cytomegalovirus, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, adenovirus, toxoplasmosis, and acanthamaebiasis. Thirty nonopportunistic infections in 22 patients (82%) were also identified. The 3 deaths related to nonopportunistic infections all involved Enterococcus species bacteremia. When compared with a concurrent chronic lymphocytic leukemia cohort that underwent allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, alemtuzumab recipients had an incidence of cytomegalovirus reactivation of 66.7% (6 of 9 patients), compared with 37% in the non-alemtuzumab group (10 of 27 patients; P = .15), and an incidence of post-transplant opportunistic infections (excluding herpesviruses) of 44.4% (compared with 29.6% in the non-alemtuzumab group; P = .41).

Conclusions: Despite the use of herpesvirus and Pneumocystis pneumonia prophylaxis, serious infectious complications occur in patients receiving alemtuzumab for lymphoproliferative disorders. Infectious complications are more varied and diverse in patients receiving alemtuzumab than has been reported in trials to date.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alemtuzumab
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antibodies, Neoplasm / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Humans
  • Infections / chemically induced
  • Infections / etiology*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paraproteinemias / drug therapy*
  • Paraproteinemias / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antibodies, Neoplasm
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Alemtuzumab