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Am J Surg Pathol. 2001 Nov;25(11):1372-9.

Primary histiocytic lymphoma of the central nervous system: a neoplasm frequently overshadowed by a prominent inflammatory component.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Hong Kong, China. cheuk_wah@hotmail.com


True histiocytic lymphoma, as defined by strict criteria, is a very rare neoplasm. We describe three cases occurring as primary tumors in the central nervous system. The patients, two females and one male, ranged in age from 11 to 69 years. The tumors involved the brain in two cases and spinal cord in one, with a size ranging from 7 to 17 mm. Two patients died at 4 months and 8 months, respectively, and one was alive with disease at 5 months. Pathologically, the tumors comprised groups and sheets of noncohesive large cells with pleomorphic vesicular nuclei, distinct nucleoli, and abundant eosinophilic cytoplasm. A dense inflammatory infiltrate consisting of neutrophils, lymphocytes, plasma cells, and histiocytes was present, with multiple foci of necrosis and abscess formation. All three cases demonstrated an identical immunophenotype: positive for CD68 and lysozyme; focally positive for S-100 protein, CD45RB, and CD4; and negative for CD3, CD20, CD21/CD35, CD1a, CD30, ALK1, myeloperoxidase, glial fibrillary acidic protein, and cytokeratin. The proliferative index ranged from 20% to 35%. Ultrastructural examination further confirmed the histiocytic nature of the tumor cells, characterized by irregularly folded or multisegmented nuclei and abundant cytoplasm containing lysosomes; Birbeck granules, interdigitating cell processes, and cell junctions were not found. Although the presence of abundant inflammatory cells could obscure the neoplastic histiocytes, making the distinction from inflammatory conditions difficult, awareness of this unusual histologic feature and the invariable finding of pleomorphic cells in some areas of the lesion permit the correct diagnosis to be made.

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