Objectives: To describe, in a retrospective study, the clinical and pathological spectrum of multicentric Castleman's disease (MCD) in HIV infection.
Patients: The diagnosis of MCD was established by lymph node biopsy in 20 HIV-infected patients. All patients had been HIV-infected by sexual contact. At diagnosis, HIV infection was asymptomatic in eight patients and Kaposi's sarcoma was present in 12. Mean +/- SD CD4+ cell count was 156 +/- 99 x 10(6)/l.
Results: Patients were referred with a syndrome of fever and splenomegaly (100%), peripheral lymphadenopathy (90%), hepatomegaly (70%), severe weight loss (70%), respiratory symptoms (65%) and oedema (55%). Anaemia was a constant finding and seven (35%) patients presented with pancytopenia. Serum markers of inflammation were present in most patients: a high level of C reactive protein (90%), polyclonal hypergammaglobulinaemia (89%) and hypoalbuminaemia (56%). The histological pattern of the lymph nodes was characterized by small hyalinized germinal centres surrounded by concentric layers of small lymphocytes, vascular hyperplasia, hyalinized vessels and large interfollicular sheets of plasma cells. Five patients were classified as plasma cell type MCD and 15 as hyaline vascular/plasma cell (mixed) type. Immunophenotyping studies (n = 13) demonstrated a polyclonal B-cell process. No linkage with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) could be demonstrated immunohistochemically using an anti-latent membrane protein-1 monoclonal antibody (n = 16) or by RNA in situ hybridization with an EBV-encoded RNA transcript-specific probe (n = 13). Remission was obtained with low-dose and usually single agent chemotherapy in 16 patients. During follow-up, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma developed in two patients and Kaposi's sarcoma in three. Fatal outcome occurred in 14 patients with a median survival of 14 months.
Conclusion: MCD associated with HIV infection is a distinct clinico-pathological entity that can be differentiated from other types of HIV-associated systemic lymphoproliferative disorders. It is very similar to MCD observed in non-HIV-infected patients, except for the high prevalence of pulmonary symptoms and for the stronger association with Kaposi's sarcoma. Single-agent chemotherapy with vinblastine is effective and may prolong survival.