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Cancer. 2017 Sep 1;123(17):3229-3240. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30826. Epub 2017 Jun 16.

A consensus review on malignancy-associated hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis in adults.

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Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
Histiocytosis Program, Texas Children's Cancer Center, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, Texas.
Division of Hematology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.
Section of Benign Hematology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
Department of Hematopathology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
University Clinic of Pediatrics, St. Anna Children's Hospital, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis Center, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Department of Internal Medicine, Schwarzwald-Baar Clinic, Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany.


Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a syndrome of severe immune activation and dysregulation resulting in extreme and often life-threatening inflammation. HLH has been well recognized in pediatric populations, and most current diagnostic and therapeutic guidelines are based on pediatric HLH. Recently there has been recognition of HLH in adults, especially secondary to immune deregulation by an underlying rheumatologic, infectious, or malignant condition. This review is focused on malignancy-associated HLH (M-HLH), in which possible mechanisms of pathogenesis include severe inflammation, persistent antigen stimulation by the tumor cells, and loss of immune homeostasis because of chemotherapy, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, or infection. Previously considered rare, M-HLH may occur in up to 1% of patients with hematologic malignancies. M-HLH is often missed or diagnosed late in most published studies, and it has been associated with a poor median survival of less than 2 months. Identification of the clinical and laboratory features specific to M-HLH in adults may allow early detection, consultation with HLH experts, and intervention. Improved management of adult M-HLH with optimal combinations of T-lympholytic and immunosuppressive agents and the incorporation of novel agents based on the pediatric experience hopefully will improve outcomes in adults with M-HLH. Cancer 2017;123:3229-40.


adults; hemophagocytosis; lymphohistiocytosis; malignancy

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