Serum interleukin-10 (IL-10) was measured retrospectively in 153 patients with a fully documented history of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) detecting both human IL-10 and the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) molecule BCRF1/viral IL- 10. IL-10 was detectable in 47 (46%) of the 101 patients with active NHL, 3 of 52 (6%) patients in first partial or complete response, and none of the 60 healthy blood donors. Serum IL-10 was detectable with a similar frequency in all subtypes of NHL and in all clinical stages, as well as in EBV-seropositive and EBV-negative patients. In patients with intermediate or high-grade NHL, the presence of detectable serum IL-10 at diagnosis was correlated to a significantly shorter overall (P = .025) and progression-free (P = .030) survival. Patients with stage IV disease and detectable serum IL-10 had a particularly poor prognosis (4 years of survival: 0%). Multivariate analysis showed that IL-10 was an independent prognosis factor. These results indicate that IL-10 is detectable in a subgroup of patients with active NHL and correlates to a poor survival in patients with intermediate or high-grade NHL.

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