Plasma Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) DNA measurement has established prognostic utility in EBV-driven lymphomas, where it serves as a circulating tumor DNA marker. The value of plasma EBV measurement may be amplified in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where advanced imaging and molecular technologies for risk stratification are not typically available. However, its utility in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is less certain, given that only a subset of DLBCLs are EBV-positive. To explore this possibility, we measured plasma EBV DNA at diagnosis in a cohort of patients with DLBCL in Malawi. High plasma EBV DNA at diagnosis (≥3.0 log10 copies/mL) was associated with decreased overall survival (OS) (P = .048). When stratified by HIV status, the prognostic utility of baseline plasma EBV DNA level was restricted to HIV-positive patients. Unexpectedly, most HIV-positive patients with high plasma EBV DNA at diagnosis had EBV-negative lymphomas, as confirmed by multiple methods. Even in these HIV-positive patients with EBV-negative DLBCL, high plasma EBV DNA remained associated with shorter OS (P = .014). These results suggest that EBV reactivation in nontumor cells is a poor prognostic finding even in HIV-positive patients with convincingly EBV-negative DLBCL, extending the potential utility of EBV measurement as a valuable and implementable prognostic marker in SSA.
Keywords: Epstein-Barr virus; HIV; diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; prognosis; sub-Saharan Africa.
© 2019 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.