Background: The mechanisms responsible for chemoresistance in patients with refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (CHL) are unknown. ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters confer multidrug resistance in various cancers and ABCC1 overexpression has been shown to contribute to drug resistance in the CHL cell line, KMH2.
Findings: We analyzed for expression of five ABC transporters ABCB1, ABCC1, ABCC2, ABCC3 and ABCG2 using immunohistochemistry in 103 pre-treatment tumor specimens obtained from patients with CHL. All patients received first-line standard chemotherapy with doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine (ABVD) or equivalent regimens. ABCC1 was expressed in Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg (HRS) cells in 16 of 82 cases (19.5%) and ABCG2 was expressed by HRS cells in 25 of 77 cases (32.5%). All tumors were negative for ABCB1, ABCC2 and ABCC3. ABCC1 expression was associated with refractory disease (p = 0.01) and was marginally associated with poorer failure-free survival (p = 0.06). Multivariate analysis after adjusting for hemoglobin and albumin levels and age showed that patients with CHL with HRS cells positive for ABCC1 had a higher risk of not responding to treatment (HR = 2.84, 95%, CI: 1.12-7.19 p = 0.028).
Conclusions: Expression of ABCC1 by HRS cells in CHL patients predicts a higher risk of treatment failure and is marginally associated with poorer failure-free survival using standard frontline chemotherapy regimens.