Background Herpes simplex virus lymphadenitis (HSVL) is an unusual presentation of HSV reactivation in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and is characterized by systemic symptoms and no herpetic lesions. The immune responses during HSVL have not, to our knowledge, been studied.Methods Peripheral blood and lymph node (LN) samples were obtained from a patient with HSVL. HSV-2 viral load, antibody levels, B and T cell responses, cytokine levels, and tumor burden were measured.Results The patient showed HSV-2 viremia for at least 6 weeks. During this period, she had a robust HSV-specific antibody response with neutralizing and antibody-dependent cellular phagocytotic activity. Activated (HLA-DR+, CD38+) CD4+ and CD8+ T cells increased 18-fold, and HSV-specific CD8+ T cells in the blood were detected at higher numbers. HSV-specific B and T cell responses were also detected in the LN. Markedly elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines in the blood were also observed. Surprisingly, a sustained decrease in CLL tumor burden without CLL-directed therapy was observed with this and also a prior episode of HSVL.Conclusion HSVL should be considered part of the differential diagnosis in patients with CLL who present with signs and symptoms of aggressive lymphoma transformation. An interesting finding was the sustained tumor control after 2 episodes of HSVL in this patient. A possible explanation for the reduction in tumor burden may be that the HSV-specific response served as an adjuvant for the activation of tumor-specific or bystander T cells. Studies in additional patients with CLL are needed to confirm and extend these findings.Funding NIH grants 4T32CA160040, UL1TR002378, and 5U19AI057266 and NIH contracts 75N93019C00063 and HHSN261200800001E. Neil W. and William S. Elkin Fellowship (Winship Cancer Institute).
Andres Chang, Anton M. Sholukh, Andreas Wieland, David L. Jaye, Mary Carrington, Meei-Li Huang, Hong Xie, Keith R. Jerome, Pavitra Roychoudhury, Alexander L. Greninger, Jean L. Koff, Jonathon B. Cohen, David M. Koelle, Lawrence Corey, Christopher R. Flowers, Rafi Ahmed