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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Caroline M Harvey
  • Simon Hughes
  • Nigel H Russell
  • Christopher P Fox

External organisations

  • University of Birmingham
  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust


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.

Bibliographic note

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


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