Haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a life threatening complication of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. The anti-CD20 antibody rituximab depletes B cells, leading to improved outcomes for patients with EBV-associated B-lymphoproliferative disorders. To gather data on the use of rituximab in EBV-HLH, we performed a retrospective investigation involving 42 EBV-HLH patients who had received treatment with rituximab-containing regimens. On average, patients received 3 rituximab infusions (range 1-10) at a median dose of 375 mg/m(2) . In all patients, rituximab was administered with other HLH-directed medications, including steroids, etoposide and/or ciclosporin. Rituximab-containing regimens appeared well tolerated and improved clinical status in 43% of patients. Examination of laboratory data obtained prior to and within 2-4 weeks after the first rituximab dose revealed significant reductions in EBV load (median load pre-rituximab: 114,200 copies/ml, median post-rituximab: 225 copies/ml, P = 0.0001) and serum ferritin levels (median ferritin pre-rituximab: 4260 μg/l, median post-rituximab: 1149 μg/l, P = 0.001). Thus, when combined with conventional HLH-directed therapies, rituximab improves symptoms, reduces viral load and diminishes inflammation. These data support the incorporation of rituximab into future prospective clinical trials for patients with EBV-HLH.
Keywords: Epstein-Barr virus; haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; macrophage activation syndrome; rituximab; x-linked lymphoproliferative disease.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.