Background: Patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) generally live 12-15 months after diagnosis, despite maximal surgical resection, adjuvant radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. HCMV has been detected in 90-100% of GBMs. We recently found that low grade HCMV infection in GBM tumours was highly associated with survival over 18 months (case-control study). Here, we sought to determine whether low-grade HCMV infection in GBMs is associated with prolonged survival in a consecutive patient cohort, analysed retrospectively.
Study design: Tumour samples from 75 consecutive GBM patients treated surgically at Karolinska University Hospital in 2004-2005 were examined by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and in situ hybridization for HCMV proteins and DNA, respectively. Tumours were graded 1-4, depending on the percentage of positive cells by IHC. Low-grade HCMV was defined as grade 1 (< 25% of HCMV infected tumour cells). Time to tumour progression (TTP) and survival data were analysed with Cox regression and Kaplan-Meier models.
Results: HCMV infection was detected in 74 of 75 tumours (99%). In patients with low-grade HCMV infection, median survival was 20 months longer than in patients with high-grade infections (P = 0.036, HR: 2.2), and TTP was 8 months longer (P = 0.1, HR: 1.8). Two-year survival was much higher in patients with low-grade HCMV infection (63.6% vs. 17.2%, P = 0.003).
Conclusion: The longer survival in patients whose tumours had low-grade HCMV infection suggests that the level of HCMV infection in GBMs has a prognostic value and that HCMV may contribute to the pathogenesis of GBM.
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