Epstein-Barr virus infection and malignant lymphomas in liver transplant recipients

Int J Cancer. 1997 Nov 14;73(4):514-20. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0215(19971114)73:4<514::aid-ijc10>3.0.co;2-9.


Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) is a major cause of death and disease in transplant patients. We describe 4 cases with histologically confirmed malignant lymphoma arising in the Birmingham liver transplant programme between 1982 and 1995. One was an EBV-positive diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, 2 were EBV-positive Burkitt's lymphomas and the 4th was an EBV-negative Burkitt's lymphoma. Immunohistochemistry revealed expression of the EBV-encoded latent membrane protein LMP1 and of the BZLF1 trans-activator protein in 2 cases each, whereas the virus-encoded nuclear antigen EBNA2 was not detectable. All available post-transplant biopsies from the 3 patients with EBV-associated lymphoma were then studied to test whether the detection of EBV-positive cells in liver allograft biopsies could be used to identify patients at risk for the development of PTLD. Two patients showed infrequent EBV-positive cells in liver allograft biopsies up to 14 months before the occurrence of lymphoma and a marked increase in the number of such cells at the time of lymphoma diagnosis. Multiple biopsies from the 3rd patient did not reveal any EBV-carrying cells in the entire post-transplant period. Our results demonstrate a low incidence of PTLD in the Birmingham liver transplant programme. The PTLDs were morphologically high-grade malignant lymphomas. Only 3 cases were associated with EBV infection, and these showed heterogeneous patterns of EBV latent protein expression. Our results also suggest that the examination of liver allograft biopsies using EBER in situ hybridisation is not an appropriate method for identifying patients at risk of developing PTLD.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / pathology
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / virology*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Herpesviridae Infections / complications*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver / virology
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / pathology
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / virology*
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / pathology
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / virology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tumor Virus Infections / complications*