The pathology of posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorders occurring in the setting of cyclosporine A-prednisone immunosuppression

Am J Pathol. 1988 Oct;133(1):173-92.


Posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorders (PTLDs) were diagnosed in 43 patients from the Pittsburgh-Denver series between June 1980 and March 1987. This constitutes a detection rate of 1.7%. Major categories of clinical presentation included a mononucleosislike syndrome, gastrointestinal/abdominal disease, and solid organ disease. The median time of onset in patients initially immunosuppressed with cyclosporine-A (CsA)-containing regimens was 4.4 months after transplant, regardless of tumor clonality. A strong association of PTLD with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) was observed. A histologic spectrum of lesions from polymorphic to monomorphic was observed. Whereas polymorphic lesions could be either clonal or nonclonal, monomorphic lesions appeared to be clonal in composition. The presence of large atypical cells (atypical immunoblasts) or necrosis did not appreciably worsen the prognosis. Twelve patients had clonal, 13 had nonclonal, and five had both clonal and nonclonal tumors. Clonality was indeterminate in 13 cases. Most patients were treated with a regimen based on reduced immunosuppression and supportive surgery. Almost all nonclonal and about half of the clonal lesions respond to this conservative therapy, indicating that it is an appropriate first line of treatment. This behavior suggests that a spectrum of lesions ranging from infectious mononucleosis to malignant lymphoma constitutes the entity known as PTLD. Some monoclonal tumors can undergo regression, however, apparently in response to host immune control mechanisms. Because of its short latency and strong association with EBV, PTLD is an important model for the study of virus-associated tumor progression in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cyclosporins / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Genes, Immunoglobulin
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains / genetics
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Infant
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / etiology
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / pathology*
  • Lymphoid Tissue / pathology
  • Lymphoma / etiology
  • Lymphoma / pathology*
  • Lymphoma / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / pathology*
  • Prednisone / adverse effects
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Syndrome
  • Transplantation*


  • Cyclosporins
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Prednisone