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Hum Pathol. 2000 Feb;31(2):255-9.

Low-grade B-cell lymphoma of mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) of thymus.

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Department of Pathology, Royal Group of Hospitals Trust, Belfast, Ireland.


This report describes a low-grade B-cell lymphoma of mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) involving the thymus of a 63-year-old woman with features suggestive of a connective tissue disease. Sections of the thymic lesion and of a lung biopsy performed at the same operation were examined histologically and by immunohistochemistry using the monoclonal antibodies CD45, CD20, CD79a, CD3, CD45RO, and AE1/AE3. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for immunoglobulin heavy chain gene rearrangement was also performed. The dense infiltrate of small lymphoid cells intimately admixed with ramifying epithelial elements, some of which had undergone cystic change, closely resembled a thymoma. The lymphoid infiltrate comprised centrocyte-like cells, small lymphocytes, plasma cells, and blasts. Most of the lymphoid cells were immunoreactive with the B-cell markers CD20 and CD79a, and PCR showed clonal immunoglobulin heavy chain gene rearrangement. The lung biopsy showed dense infiltration by small lymphoid cells, morphologically suggestive of lymphoid interstitial pneumonia. However, PCR showed a weak band in the amplification for immunoglobulin heavy chain gene rearrangement, identical to that within the thymus and suggesting either recirculation of cells to accumulated MALT or subhistological lymphoma. MALT lymphoma may rarely involve the thymus, and pathologists should be aware of this to avoid misdiagnosis as a thymoma. Immunohistochemical and/or molecular studies are of value in this regard. MALT lymphomas of the thymus, common with those arising in other organs, may develop in the setting of a connective tissue disease.

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