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Saturday 15 June 2002

Prevention of Epstein-Barr virus-lymphoproliferative disease by molecular monitoring and preemptive rituximab in high-risk patients after allogeneic stem cell transplantation.

By: van Esser JW, Niesters HG, van der Holt B, Meijer E, Osterhaus AD, Gratama JW, Verdonck LF, Lowenberg B, Cornelissen JJ.

Blood 2002 Jun 15;99(12):4364-9

Recipients of a partially T-cell-depleted (TCD) allogeneic stem cell transplantation (allo-SCT) developing reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) with quantified viral DNA levels exceeding 1000 genome equivalents/milliliter (geq/mL) are at high risk for EBV-lymphoproliferative disease (EBV-LPD). We studied whether preemptive therapy with rituximab prevents EBV-LPD, LPD-mortality, and abrogates viral reactivation in high-risk patients. We monitored 49 recipients of a TCD allo-SCT weekly for EBV reactivation by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Preemptive therapy by a single infusion of rituximab was given to patients with viral reactivation more than or equal to 1000 geq/mL. Results were compared with an historical control group of patients retrospectively monitored for EBV reactivation at similar intervals. There were 17 prospectively monitored patients who showed EBV reactivation more than or equal to 1000 geq/mL and 15 received preemptive therapy. Median time to preemptive therapy was 113 days (range, 41-202 days) after SCT. There were 14 patients who showed complete response (CR) as characterized by prevention of EBV-LPD and complete clearance of EBV-DNA from plasma, which was achieved after a median number of 8 days (range, 1-46 days). One patient progressed to EBV-LPD despite preemptive therapy, but obtained CR after 2 infusions of rituximab and donor lymphocyte infusion. There were 2 patients who had already developed EBV-LPD prior to preemptive rituximab, but obtained CR following 2 rituximab infusions. Comparison of this prospectively followed series to our historical cohort with the same high-risk profile showed a reduction of EBV-LPD incidence (18% +/- 9% versus 49% +/- 11%, respectively) and a complete abrogation of LPD-mortality (0% versus 26% +/- 10%, respectively) (P =.04) at 6 months from EBV-DNA more than or equal to 1000 geq/mL. Frequent quantitative monitoring of EBV reactivation and preemptive therapy by rituximab improves outcome in patients at high risk of EBV-LPD. (Blood. 2002;99:4364-4369)

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