Objective: To evaluate the relevance of serum-free light chain (FLC) assessment in hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related lymphoproliferative disorders, including mixed cryoglobulinemia (MC) and B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (B-NHL).
Patients and methods: A total of 59 patients infected with HCV were prospectively followed, including patients without MC (n = 17), with asymptomatic MC (n = 7) and with MC vasculitis (n = 35, 9 of whom had B-NHL). Clinical and biological data were recorded at the time of the initial evaluation and at the end of follow-up. Serum FLC quantitation was carried out using a serum FLC assay.
Results: The mean (SD) serum κ FLC level was higher in patients with asymptomatic MC (27.9 (8.6) mg/litre), MC vasculitis (36.7 (46.2) mg/litre) and B-NHL (51.3 (78.3) mg/litre) than without MC (21.7 (17.6) mg/litre) (p = 0.047, 0.025 and 0.045, respectively). The mean serum FLC ratio was higher in patients with MC vasculitis (2.08 (2.33)) and B-NHL (3.14 (3.49)) than in patients without MC (1.03 (0.26)) (p = 0.008). The rate of abnormal serum FLC ratio (>1.65) correlated with the severity of HCV-related B cell disorder: 0/17 (0%) without MC, 0/7 (0%) asymptomatic MC, 6/26 (23%) MC vasculitis without B-NHL and 4/9 (44%) B-NHL (p = 0.002). Serum κ FLC levels and the serum FLC ratio correlated with the cryoglobulin level (r = 0.32, p<0.001 and r = 0.25, p = 0.002, respectively) and the severity of the B cell disorder (r = 0.26, p = 0.045 and r = 0.41, p = 0.001, respectively). Among patients with an abnormal serum FLC ratio at baseline, the FLC ratio correlated with the virological response to HCV treatment.
Conclusions: In patients infected with HCV, an abnormal serum FLC ratio appears to be a very interesting marker, as it is consistently associated with the presence of MC vasculitis and/or B-NHL. After antiviral therapy, the serum FLC ratio could be used as a surrogate marker of the control of the HCV-related lymphoproliferation.
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