PTLD may be considered as an "opportunistic cancer" in which the immunodeficiency state of the host plays a key role in fostering the environment necessary for abnormal lymphoproliferation. The following discussion reflects our own current thoughts regarding events which may result in PTLD and its sequelae. Many of the individual steps have not been rigorously proved or disproved at this point in time. Following transplantation and iatrogenic immunosuppression, the host:EBV equilibrium is shifted in favor of the virus. Most seronegative patients will become infected either via the graft or through natural means; seropositive patients will begin to shed higher levels of virus and may become secondarily superinfected via the graft. There is a "grace" period of approximately one month posttransplant before increased viral shedding begins. PTLD is almost never seen during this interval. In many cases infection continues to be silent whereas in rare individuals there is an overwhelming polyclonal proliferation of infected B lymphocytes. This is the parallel of infectious mononucleosis occurring in patients with a congenital defect in virus handling (X-linked lymphoproliferative disorder). It is possible that transplant patients with this presentation also suffer a defect in virus handling. In other cases excessive iatrogenic immunosuppression may paralyze their ability to respond to the infection. With CsA and FK506 regimens, individual tumors may occur within a matter of months following transplant. The short time of incubation suggests that these are less than fully developed malignancies. It may be that local events conspire to allow outgrowth of limited numbers of B-lymphocyte clones. A cytokine environment favoring B-lymphocyte growth may be one factor and differential inhibition by the immuno-suppressive drugs of calcium-dependent and -independent B-cell stimulation may be another. In addition, there is some evidence that CsA itself may inhibit apoptosis within B cells. Since most patients do not develop PTLDs, an additional signal(s) for B-cell stimulation may be required. Indeed, it is possible that the virus may simply serve to lower the threshold for B-cell activation and/or provide a survival advantage to these cells. The ability of individual cell clones to evade a weakened immune system may set into play a Darwinian type of competition in which the most rapidly proliferating cells with the least number of antigenic targets predominate. In this regard, differences in host HLA types may determine the repertoire of viral antigens which are subject to attack.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS
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