A population-based study of 135 lymphomas after solid organ transplantation: The role of Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis C and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma subtype in clinical presentation and survival

Acta Oncol. 2014 May;53(5):669-79. doi: 10.3109/0284186X.2013.844853. Epub 2013 Oct 28.


Background: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) plays a major role in the development of post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD), but there is an increasing awareness of EBV-negative PTLD. The clinical presentation of EBV-negative PTLD has not been as well characterised as EBV-positive cases. Further, there is limited knowledge on the clinical importance of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) cell of origin subtype post-transplant.

Materials and methods: We studied the role of EBV, hepatitis C (HCV) and DLBCL subtype in clinical presentation and survival in 135 post-transplant lymphomas diagnosed 1980-2006 in a population-based cohort of 10 010 Swedish solid organ transplant recipients. The lymphomas were re-evaluated according to WHO 2008, examined for EBV, and clinical data were collected from medical records.

Results: Lymphoma incidence rate was 159/100 000 person-years and is also reported by lymphoma subtype. EBV-negative lymphomas constituted 48% and were associated with HCV infection (p = 0.02), bone marrow involvement (p < 0.001), and T-cell phenotype (p = 0.002). Among DLBCL, 78% were of non-germinal centre subtype, which was associated with EBV-positivity (69%, p = 0.001), early occurrence (p = 0.03), heart/liver/lung/pancreas recipients (p = 0.02), anti-T-cell globulin (p = 0.001), and tacrolimus treatment (p = 0.02). DLBCL subtypes had similar overall survival. Five-year overall survival was 42% in all treated patients. Independent poor prognostic factors were older age, B symptoms, ECOG 2-4, kidney/pancreas/heart recipients, T-cell lymphoma, and HCV-infection.

Conclusions: With long follow-up, a large part of PTLD is EBV-negative, due to a high proportion of T-cell lymphomas and low of polymorphic PTLD. EBV-negative PTLD have a different clinical presentation. HCV may play an aetiological role in late-onset PTLD and was revealed as a new prognostic factor for inferior survival that needs to be confirmed in larger studies. The heavier immunosuppression in non-kidney transplantations seems to play a role in the development of non-germinal centre DLBCL. DLBCL cell of origin subtype lacks prognostic importance in the transplant setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / complications
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C / complications
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Lymphoma / epidemiology*
  • Lymphoma / etiology*
  • Lymphoma / pathology
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult