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Gut. 2002 Sep;51(3):372-8.

Heterogeneity of intraepithelial lymphocytes in refractory sprue: potential implications of CD30 expression.

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Department of Pathology, and Laboratory for Immunohistochemistry and Immunopathology, Institute of Pathology, University of Oslo, Rikshospitalet, Oslo, Norway.



Refractory sprue is defined as primary or secondary failure to respond to a gluten free diet in patients with coeliac disease-like enteropathy and may signify cryptic or overt enteropathy associated T cell lymphoma.


To study in detail jejunal morphology and immunophenotypes in patients with refractory sprue in the search for features that might be useful to predict prognosis.


Seven patients are described, representing all such cases identified in our hospital over a 13 year period.


Biopsy and/or surgical resection specimens were examined by morphology, immunohistochemistry, including enzymatic and immunofluorescent detection, and molecular biology.


All patients had phenotypically abnormal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) that lacked CD8, T cell receptor alpha beta (or gamma delta), and/or expressed CD30 in addition to variable expression of the natural killer cell receptor CD94. A monoclonal T cell population was present in six cases, data from the seventh being inconclusive. Three patients had overt lymphoma with CD30+ tumour tissue intervening between intact mucosa that contained neoplastic IELs. Intriguingly, CD30+ IELs were observed both a long way away from, and in direct continuity with, the tumours in these patients. Such CD30+ cells were hardly detected in patients without tumours, two of which are in good health several years after the initial diagnosis.


Our data suggest that abnormal IELs in patients with refractory sprue are phenotypically heterogeneous. CD30 expression by these cells may indicate a worse prognosis, including the occurrence of overt lymphoma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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