Greatly reduced risk of EBV reactivation in rituximab-experienced recipients of alemtuzumab-conditioned allogeneic HSCT

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EBV-associated post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) remains an important complication of allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). We retrospectively analysed the incidence and risk factors for EBV reactivation in 186 adult patients undergoing consecutive allo-HSCT with alemtuzumab T-cell depletion at a single centre. The cumulative incidence of EBV reactivation was 48% (confidence interval (CI) 41–55%) by 1 year, with an incidence of high-level EBV reactivation of 18% (CI 13–24%); 8 patients were concurrently diagnosed with PTLD. Amongst patients with high-level reactivation 31/38 (82%) developed this within only 2 weeks of first EBV qPCR positivity. In univariate analysis age ≥ 50 years was associated with significantly increased risk of EBV reactivation (hazard ratio (HR) 1.54, CI 1.02–2.31; P = 0.039). Furthermore, a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) was associated with greatly reduced risk of reactivation (HR 0.10, CI 0.03–0.33; P = 0.0001) and this was confirmed in multivariate testing. Importantly, rituximab therapy within 6 months prior to allo-HSCT was also highly predictive for lack of EBV reactivation (HR 0.18, CI 0.07–0.48; P = 0.001) although confounding with NHL was apparent. Our data emphasise the risk of PTLD associated with alemtuzumab. Furthermore, we report the clinically important observation that rituximab, administered in the peri-transplant period, may provide effective prophylaxis for PTLD.

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