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Hum Pathol. 2002 Feb;33(2):146-52.

Epstein-Barr virus association and ALK gene expression in anaplastic large-cell lymphoma.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, India.


Anaplastic large cell lymphoma of T/null-cell type (ALCL) is associated with a characteristic genetic abnormality t(2;5) that results in the NPM-ALK chimeric gene and the protein product derived thereof. In 10% to 20% of ALCLs, the translocation partners of the ALK gene are genes other than NPM (variant translocations). ALK gene expression limited to the cytoplasm implies a variant translocation. In this study, we have investigated 46 cases of ALCL for expression and localization of ALK protein and its association with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) (by hybridization to EBV-encoded nuclear RNA-1 [EBER-1] and immunostaining for LMP-1). ALCL patients with a null cell phenotype were significantly younger as compared with those of T-cell phenotype (mean age: 28 years v 42 years; P =.018). Sixteen of 46 ALCL cases (34%) were ALK positive. ALK-positive patients were significantly younger (mean age: 25 years for those with both cytoplasmic and nuclear staining; 22 years for those with exclusive cytoplasmic staining; and 41 years for those negative for the ALK gene; P =.023). EBER-1 was detected in 9 of 46 cases (20%), and LMP-1 expression was noted in 5 of them. By polymerase chain reaction analysis, all EBV-associated cases that were investigated showed type I EBV. Whereas 2 of 23 T-cell ALCLs (9%) were EBER-1+, and 7 of 23 null-cell ALCLs (30%) showed EBV association (P =.057). EBV association was seen in 20% of ALK-negative cases, in 0% of cases with ALK gene expression in both nucleus and cytoplasm, and in 60% of cases with ALK gene expression exclusively in the cytoplasm (P =.02). Further, although ALK-positive-EBER-1+ cases were LMP-1 negative, ALK-negative-EBER-1+ cases were LMP-1 positive. Our study raises the question whether EBV might have an etiological role in the evolution of ALCLs that lack classical t(2;5).

Copyright 2002, Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.

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