Recent studies reported that posttransplant Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) replication is frequent and indicates overimmunosuppression. We hypothesized that long-term EBV replication may identify overimmunosuppressed patients at higher risk of cancer.
We analyzed a prospective cohort of renal transplant recipients having routine EBV PCR surveillance. All cancers (except EBV-related neoplasia) were recorded.
Mean follow up was 94 + 23 months. Samples (8412) were available in 669 patients. Three hundred eighty-eight of the 669 patients (58%) had at least 1 positive viremia during follow-up.Epstein-Barr virus D+/R- patients (P = 0.046) as well as those having received antithymocyte globulin (P < 0.001) were more likely to develop persistent EBV viremia. Eighty-six patients (12.9%) developed a cancer during follow-up. The cumulated incidence of cancer was higher in patients with persistent high EBV replication (22.4% vs 10.2%, P = 0.005). The effect of persistent EBV infection remained significant even after adjustment for all confounding factors (hazard ratio, 1.69; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-2.61; P = 0.018). Age, history of antithymocyte globulin use, smoking, and history of cancer were also associated with cancer occurrence. CONCLUSIONS
Persistent high EBV viral load is associated with the occurrence of solid cancer. In this setting, more intensive screening and/or minimization of immunosuppressive treatment are probably required.