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Leukemia. 2004 Mar;18(3):589-96.

Prognostic significance of activated cytotoxic T-lymphocytes in primary nodal diffuse large B-cell lymphomas.

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Department of Clinical Pathology, Vrije Universiteit Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Clinical outcome in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) remains unpredictable, despite the identification of clinical prognostic parameters. Here, we investigated in pretreatment biopsies of 70 patients with DLBCL whether numbers of activated cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs), as determined by the percentage of CD3-positive lymphocytes with granzyme B (GrB) expression, have similar prognostic value as found earlier in Hodgkin's lymphoma and anaplastic large-cell lymphoma and whether loss of major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-I molecules or expression of the GrB antagonist protease inhibitor 9 (PI9) may explain immune escape from CTL-mediated cell death. Independent of the International Prognostic Index (IPI), the presence of >/=15% activated CTLs was strongly associated with failure to reach complete remission, with a poor progression-free and overall survival time. Downregulation of MHC-I light- and/or heavy-chain expression was found in 41% of interpretable cases and in 19 of 56 interpretable cases PI9 expression was detected. We conclude that a high percentage of activated CTLs is a strong, IPI independent, indicator for an unfavorable clinical outcome in patients with primary nodal DLBCL. Although in part of DLBCL expression of PI9 and loss of MHC-I expression was found, providing a possible immune-escape mechanism in these cases, no correlation with clinical outcome was found.

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