Department of Internal Medicine 1, J.W. Goethe-University Hospital, Frankfurt, Germany. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is ample epidemiologic evidence for an association of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (B-NHL). B-NHL subtypes most frequently associated with HCV are marginal zone lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. The most convincing evidence for a causal relationship between HCV infection and lymphoma development is the observation of B-NHL regression after HCV eradication by antiviral therapy (AVT). In fact, for indolent HCV-associated B-NHL, first-line AVT instead of standard immune-chemotherapy might be considered. Molecular mechanisms of HCV-NHL development are still poorly understood. Three general theories have emerged to understand the HCV-induced lymphomagenesis: (1) continuous external stimulation of lymphocyte receptors by viral antigens and consecutive proliferation; (2) HCV replication in B cells with oncogenic effect mediated by intracellular viral proteins; (3) permanent B-cell damage, e.g., mutation of tumor suppressor genes, caused by a transiently intracellular virus ("hit and run" theory). This review systematically summarizes the data on epidemiology, interventional studies, and molecular mechanisms of HCV-associated B-NHL.