The treatment of AIDS-related lymphomas involves overcoming several problems. These are all aggressive lymphomas, which by definition are diffuse large cell/immunoblastic lymphoma or small noncleaved cell lymphoma. These lymphomas frequently involve the bone marrow and central nervous system (CNS) and, therefore, are usually in an advanced stage. In addition, the immunodeficiency of AIDS and the leukopenia that is commonly seen with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection makes the use of immunosuppressive chemotherapy difficult.
A large number of retrospective studies and several prospective studies have been reported using regimens such as cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone (CHOP), methotrexate, bleomycin, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and dexamethasone (m-BACOD), and infusional cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and etoposide.[1,2,3,4] The patients who go into remission are more likely to have less disease, no bone marrow or CNS involvement, no prior AIDS-defining illness, and a better performance status. Patients at risk for subsequent CNS involvement include those with bone marrow involvement or those with Epstein-Barr virus identified in the primary tumor or in the cerebrospinal fluid (i.e., by polymerase chain reaction).[5,6,7] Intrathecal chemotherapy is usually considered for those patients at higher risk for CNS involvement.
Prior to the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) era, a randomized trial of patients with HIV and either Burkitt lymphoma (BL) or diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) compared standard dose chemotherapy and growth factor support with reduced-dose chemotherapy. No difference was found in overall survival (OS) between the two dose levels, and no difference was observed between the historic groups (BL and DLBCL); however, the median survival was equally poor at 6 to 7 months.[Level of evidence: 1iiA] The introduction of HAART has led to a marked reduction in opportunistic infections, prolonged survival with HIV infection, and a median OS for patients with AIDS-related lymphoma, which is comparable to the outcome in the nonimmunosuppressed population.[4,8,9,10,11,12,13,14][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv] The use of HAART has also allowed the use of standard dose and even intensive chemotherapy regimens to be given with reasonable safety to patients with AIDS-related lymphomas, which is comparable to the outcome in non-HIV patients.[3,4,13,14,15,16]