Non-uniform in vivo Expansion of Epstein-Barr Virus-Specific T-Cells Following Donor Lymphocyte Infusion for Post-transplant Lymphoproliferative Disease

David M Burns, Gordon B Ryan, Caroline M Harvey, Eszter Nagy, Simon Hughes, Paul G Murray, Nigel H Russell, Christopher P Fox, Heather M Long

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Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) is a life-threatening complication of T-lymphocyte deplete allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). For patients with PTLD refractory to Rituximab, donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI) is established as a successful option for salvage therapy. However, although in vivo lymphocyte expansion has been correlated with good clinical outcome following DLI, the specificity and functional characteristics of EBV-specific T-cell responses remain poorly characterized. Here we describe two patients with Rituximab-refractory PTLD complicating T-cell deplete allo-HSCT, both of whom were successfully rescued with 1 × 106/Kg unselected stem cell donor-derived DLI. Prospective analyses revealed that complete clinical and radiological responses were associated with in vivo expansion of T and NK cells. Furthermore, EBV MHC tetramer, and interferon gamma analyses revealed a marked increase in EBV-specific T-cell frequency from 4 weeks after DLI. Reactivity was demonstrated against a range of EBV latent and lytic antigens, including those detected in tumor biopsy material. The immunodominant EBV-specific T cell response expanding in vivo following infusion matched the dominant response present in the DLI preparations prior to administration. Furthermore, differences in the repertoire of subdominant antigen-specific T-cells were also detected, suggesting that antigen-encounter in vivo can shape the immune response. These results demonstrate the value of prospectively studying in vivo T-cell responses, by facilitating the identification of important specificities required for clinical efficacy. Applying this approach on a larger scale promises to yield data which may be essential for the optimization of future adoptive immunotherapeutic strategies for PTLD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2489
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberOCT
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 Burns, Ryan, Harvey, Nagy, Hughes, Murray, Russell, Fox and Long.


  • Adoptive T-cell therapy
  • Donor lymphocyte infusion
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Flow cytometry
  • PTLD
  • Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease
  • T-cells
  • Tetramers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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