2018 July 10

A study by the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute reveals a new biomarker for the detection of lymphomas in patients with HIV

The Lymphoid Neoplasms group led by Dr Tomas Navarro, has identified a new biomarker to detect lymphoma in HIV+ patients.  The work has been published in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Carriers of the HIV virus (HIV+) are at a greater risk of developing some kinds of cancer.  Lymphoma is the second most frequent neoplasm in HIV+ patients after Kaposi’s sarcoma, it is the main cause of cancer deaths in this group.

Dr. José Tomás Navarro’s team at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute is focused on HIV+ patients suffering from lymphomas. The paper Plasma EBV-load as an early biomarker and prognostic factor of HIV-related lymphomas was led by Josep Muncunill, a PhD student in the group.

Many patients with HIV-related immune-depression also carry the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).  In many cases, it is found within the lymphoma itself.  This work has shown that the presence of Epstein-Barr virus in blood plasma can be used as a marker for lymphomas that appear in people affected by HIV; in fact it is present when the lymphoma is active and when it disappears from the blood plasma it is an indirect indicator that the treatment of the lymphoma has been effective. Furthermore, for this group of patients, the presence of this virus in blood plasma can be used as a predictive marker before the appearance of a lymphoma. The Epstein-Barr virus can be detected in blood plasma between 6 and 12 months before the symptoms of a lymphoma appear.

Finally, it has been shown that the presence of Epstein-Barr virus is associated with a poor prognosis. The more Epstein-Barr virus found in blood plasma, the worse the prognosis for the patient suffering from lymphoma. This poor prognosis is reversed when the monoclonal antibody rituximab is added to chemotherapy treatments.

The authors conclude that EBV should be monitored in the HIV infected population and especially in those diagnosed with lymphoma.  They also recommend more studies on a large number of patients to gain more information on the relationship between EBV load and the progression of lymphoma.

Reference

Plasma EBV-load as an early biomarker and prognostic factor of HIV-related lymphomas
Josep Muncunill et al. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 29 June 2018 [ePub]