Impact of tumor Epstein-Barr virus status on presenting features and outcome in age-defined subgroups of patients with classic Hodgkin lymphoma: a population-based study

Ruth F. Jarrett, Gail L. Stark, Jo White, Brian Angus, Freda E. Alexander, Andrew S. Krajewski, June Freeland, G. Malcolm Taylor and Penelope R. A. Taylor for the Scotland and Newcastle Epidemiology of Hodgkin Disease Study Group


The association between tumor Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) status and clinical outcome in Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is controversial. This population-based study assessed the impact of EBV status on survival in age-stratified cohorts of adults with classic HL (cHL). Data from 437 cases were analyzed with a median follow-up of 93 months. Overall survival (OS) was significantly better for EBV-negative compared with EBV-positive patients (P < .001), with 5-year survival rates of 81% and 66%, respectively; disease-specific survival (DSS) was also greater for EBV-negative patients (P = .03). The impact of EBV status varied with age at diagnosis. In patients aged 16 to 34 years, EBV-associated cases had a survival advantage compared with EBV-negative cases, but differences were not statistically significant (P = .21). Among patients 50 years or older, EBV positivity was associated with a significantly poorer outcome (P = .003). Excess deaths occurred in EBV-positive patients with both early- and advanced-stage disease. In multivariate analysis of OS in the older patients, EBV status retained statistical significance after adjusting for the effects of sex, stage, and B symptoms (P = .01). Impaired immune status may contribute to the development of EBV-positive cHL in older patients, and strategies aimed at boosting the immune response should be investigated in the treatment of these patients. (Blood. 2005;106:2444-2451)

  • Submitted September 29, 2004.
  • Accepted May 15, 2005.
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