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Blood. 1999 Apr 15;93(8):2688-96.

Adverse effects of activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes on the clinical outcome of nodal anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

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  • 1Departments of Pathology and Haematology, University Hospital Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Systemic (nodal) anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a subgroup of T-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas with a relatively favorable clinical outcome. Part of systemic ALCLs harbor a genetic aberration (usually the t(2;5)(p23;q35) translocation) containing the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene at 2p23, which results in aberrant expression of the ALK protein. Recently, we have shown that the presence of high percentages of activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in tumor biopsy specimens of Hodgkin's disease (HD) is associated with a poor prognosis. In the present study, we investigated the prognostic value of percentages of activated CTLs in combination with ALK expression in primary nodal ALCL. Primary nodal biopsies of 42 patients with ALCL were investigated for the percentage of activated CTLs (quantified using Q-PRODIT) and the expression of ALK by immunohistochemistry using monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) directed against T-cell antigen granzyme B (GrB) and ALK, respectively. These parameters were evaluated for their predictive value regarding progression-free and overall survival time. The presence of a high percentage of activated CTLs (ie, >/=15%) was found to be an unfavorable prognostic marker. In combination with a lack of ALK expression, it was possible to identify a group of patients with a very poor prognosis. In this group, 13 of 16 patients died within 2 years as a result of the disease. Of the remaining 26 patients, only three (all ALK negative) died (P <.0001). Furthermore, the percentage of activated CTLs combined with ALK status appeared to be of stronger prognostic value than the International Prognostic Index (IPI). We conclude that a high percentage of activated CTLs present in biopsy material of patients with primary nodal ALCL is a strong indicator for an unfavorable clinical outcome. The combination of ALK expression and percentage of activated CTLs appears to be more sensitive than the IPI in identifying a group of patients with a highly unfavorable clinical outcome who may be eligible for alternative (high dose) therapy schemes.

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