Use of pembrolizumab with or without pomalidomide in HIV-associated non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Kathryn Lurain, Ramya Ramaswami, Ralph Mangusan, Anaida Widell, Irene Ekwede, Jomy George, Richard Ambinder, Martin Cheever, James L. Gulley, Priscila H. Goncalves, Hao Wei Wang, Thomas S. Uldrick, Robert Yarchoan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is currently the most common malignancy among people living with HIV (PLWH) in the USA. NHL in PLWH is more frequently associated with oncogenic viruses than NHL in immunocompetent individuals and is generally associated with increased PD-1 expression and T cell exhaustion. An effective immune-based second-line approach that is less immunosuppressive than chemotherapy may decrease infection risk, improve immune control of oncogenic viruses, and ultimately allow for better lymphoma control. Methods We conducted a retrospective study of patients with HIV-associated lymphomas treated with pembrolizumab±pomalidomide in the HIV and AIDS Malignancy Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute. Results We identified 10 patients with stage IV relapsed and/or primary refractory HIV-associated NHL who were treated with pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inihibitor, with or without pomalidomide. Five patients had primary effusion lymphoma (PEL): one had germinal center B cell-like (GCB) diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL); two had non-GCB DLBCL; one had aggressive B cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified; and one had plasmablastic lymphoma. Six patients received pembrolizumab alone at 200 mg intravenously every 3 weeks, three received pembrolizumab 200 mg intravenously every 4 weeks plus pomalidomide 4 mg orally every day for days 1-21 of a 28-day cycle; and one sequentially received pembrolizumab alone and then pomalidomide alone. The response rate was 50% with particular benefit in gammaherpesvirus-associated tumors. The progression-free survival was 4.1 months (95% CI: 1.3 to 12.4) and overall survival was 14.7 months (95% CI: 2.96 to not reached). Three patients with PEL had leptomeningeal disease: one had a complete response and the other two had long-term disease control. There were four immune-related adverse events (irAEs), all CTCAEv5 grade 2-3; three of the four patients were able to continue receiving pembrolizumab. No irAEs occurred in patients receiving the combination of pembrolizumab and pomalidomide. Conclusions Treatment of HIV-associated NHL with pembrolizumab with or without pomalidomide elicited responses in several subtypes of HIV-associated NHL. This approach is worth further study in PLWH and NHL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere002097
JournalJournal for immunotherapy of cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 19 2021


  • hematologic neoplasms
  • immunomodulation
  • immunotherapy
  • programmed cell death 1 receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Use of pembrolizumab with or without pomalidomide in HIV-associated non-Hodgkin's lymphoma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this