Approximately 40% of Hodgkin's disease (HD) cases carry EBV in the malignant Hodgkin-Reed Sternberg (H-RS) cells, with expression of viral latent membrane proteins (LMPs) 1 and 2. These viral proteins are targets for CTLs in healthy EBV carriers, and their expression in EBV-associated HD raises the possibility of targeting them for a CTL-based immunotherapy. Here we characterize the CTL response to EBV latent antigens in both the blood and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes of HD patients using two approaches: (a) in vitro reactivation of CTLs by stimulation with the autologous EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell line; and (b) an enzyme-linked immunospot assay to quantify frequencies of CTLs specific for known LMP1/2 epitopes. We detected EBV-specific CTLs in blood and biopsy samples from both EBV-negative and EBV-positive HD patients. However, as in healthy EBV carriers, LMP-specific CTL precursors occurred only at low frequency in the blood of HD patients, and with the exception of one EBV-negative HD case, were undetectable in the tumor. These data give rise to two considerations: (a) they may explain why EBV-positive tumor cells persist in the presence of an existing EBV-specific immune response; and (b) they provide a rationale for selectively boosting/eliciting LMP-specific CTL responses as a therapy for EBV-positive HD.
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|Published - 1 Jan 2001