Background: Low-grade B-cell lymphomas arising in mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) are most frequently localized in the gastrointestinal tract. More than 90% of gastric MALT lymphomas are diagnosed in patients with chronic, Helicobacter pylori-associated gastritis. High remission rates for these lymphomas have been observed after the cure of H. pylori infection. Data are lacking, however, with regard to the duration of the remissions. To address this question of remission duration, we have followed 50 patients in whom H. pylori infections were eradicated, and we determined whether the patients in complete remission displayed evidence of residual monoclonal B cells during follow-up.
Methods: Patients were treated with amoxycillin and omeprazole for 2 weeks in an attempt to cure H. pylori infections. Follow-up included endoscopic investigations with biopsy sampling. Monoclonal B cells in biopsy specimens were detected by means of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assay.
Results: H. pylori infections were cured in all 50 patients. The median follow-up for the 50 patients is currently 24 months (729 days; range, 135-1411 days). Forty patients achieved complete remission of their lymphomas, but five have subsequently relapsed. The median time of continuous complete remission for the 40 patients was 15.4 months (468 days; range, 0-1198 days). Among six patients whose Iymphomas did not respond to H. pylori eradication, four revealed high-grade lymphomas upon surgery. PCR indicated the presence of monoclonal B cells during follow-up in 22 of 31 assessable patients in complete remission.
Conclusions: Complete remissions of low-grade gastric MALT Iymphomas after the cure of H. pylori infection appear to be stable, although most patients display evidence of monoclonal B cells during follow-up. Whether these patients are truly cured of their Iymphomas remains to be determined.