EBV infection determines the immune hallmarks of plasmablastic lymphoma.

PMID 30288350


Despite recent therapeutic progress, plasmablastic lymphoma (PBL), a distinct entity of high grade B cell lymphoma, is still an aggressive lymphoma with adverse prognosis. PBL commonly occurs in patients with HIV infection and PBL cells frequently express Epstein Barr virus (EBV) genome with type I latency. Occasionally however, PBL may develop in patients with an immunodepressed status without EBV and HIV infection. The aim of this study was to determine which PBL patients may benefit from the emerging strategies of immune checkpoint blockade. Here, we produced and analyzed the transcriptomic profiles of such tumors to address this question. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering analysis of PBL samples revealed they segregate according to their tumor EBV-status. Moreover, EBV+ PBL displays abundant leucocyte infiltrates and T-cell activation signatures, together with high expression levels of mRNA and protein markers of immune escape. This suggests that EBV infection induce an anti-viral cytotoxic immunity which progressively exhausts T lymphocytes and promotes the tolerogenic microenvironment of PBL. Hence, most EBV+ PBL patients presenting an early stage of cancer immune-editing process appear as the most eligible patients for immune checkpoint blockade therapies.