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Cancer Health Center

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AIDS-Related Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Cellular Classification of AIDS-Related Lymphoma

Pathologically, AIDS-related lymphomas are comprised of a narrow spectrum of histologic types consisting almost exclusively of B-cell tumors of aggressive type. These include the following:

  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
  • B-cell immunoblastic lymphoma.
  • Small noncleaved lymphoma, either Burkitt or Burkitt-like.

All three pathologic types are equally distributed and represent aggressive disease.

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AIDS-related lymphomas, though usually of B-cell origin as demonstrated by immunoglobulin heavy-chain gene rearrangement studies, have also been shown to be oligoclonal and polyclonal as well as monoclonal in origin. Although human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) does not appear to have a direct etiologic role, HIV infection does lead to an altered immunologic milieu. HIV generally infects T lymphocytes whose loss of regulation function leads to hypergammaglobulinemia and polyclonal B-cell hyperplasia. B cells are not the targets of HIV infection. Instead, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is thought to be at least a cofactor in the etiology of some of these lymphomas. The EBV genome has been detected in varying numbers of patients with AIDS-related lymphomas; molecular analysis suggests that the cells were infected before clonal proliferation began.[1] EBV is detected in 30% of patients with small, noncleaved lymphomas and in 80% of patients with diffuse, large cell lymphomas. The rare, primary effusion lymphoma consistently harbors human herpes virus type-8 and frequently contains EBV.[2] HIV-related T-cell lymphomas have also been identified and appear to be associated with EBV infection.[3]


  1. Thorley-Lawson DA, Gross A: Persistence of the Epstein-Barr virus and the origins of associated lymphomas. N Engl J Med 350 (13): 1328-37, 2004.
  2. Simonelli C, Spina M, Cinelli R, et al.: Clinical features and outcome of primary effusion lymphoma in HIV-infected patients: a single-institution study. J Clin Oncol 21 (21): 3948-54, 2003.
  3. Thomas JA, Cotter F, Hanby AM, et al.: Epstein-Barr virus-related oral T-cell lymphoma associated with human immunodeficiency virus immunosuppression. Blood 81 (12): 3350-6, 1993.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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