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Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis in Children: Pathogenesis and Treatment

Eiichi Ishii
Frontiers in Pediatrics 2016, 4: 47
27242976
Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a rare disorder in children that is characterized by persistent fever, splenomegaly with cytopenia, hypertriglyceridemia, and hypofibrinogenemia. Increased levels of various cytokines and soluble interleukin-2 receptor are biological markers of HLH. HLH can be classified into two major forms: primary and secondary. Familial hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (FHL), a type of primary HLH, is an autosomal recessive disorder that typically occurs in infancy and can be classified into five different subtypes (FHL types 1-5). In Japan, >80% of patients with FHL have either PRF1 (FHL type 2) or UNC13D (FHL type 3) defects. FHL is considered to be a disorder of T-cell function because the activity of NK cells or cytotoxic T lymphocytes as target cells is usually impaired. Moreover, Epstein-Barr virus-associated HLH (EBV-HLH) is considered a major subtype of secondary HLH. Any genetic background could have an effect on the pathogenesis of secondary HLH because EBV-HLH is considered to be particularly prevalent in Asian countries. For primary HLH, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is the only accepted curative therapy, although cord blood transplantation with a reduced-conditioning regimen has been used with superior outcomes. For secondary HLH, including EBV-HLH, immunochemotherapy based on the HLH-2004 protocol has been used. In the near future, the entire mechanism of HLH should be clarified to establish less toxic therapies, including cell therapy and gene targeting therapy.

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