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Eur J Haematol. 2003 Oct;71(4):243-9.

ALK-positive anaplastic large-cell lymphoma: strong T and B anti-tumour responses may cause hypocellular aspects of lymph nodes mimicking inflammatory lesions.

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Department of Pathology, University Hospital of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.


The anaplastic large cell lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma which occurs in children mostly. The ALK protein is highly immunogenic and elicits both humoral and cellular immune responses. A 15-yr-old child presented with fever and adenopathy and did not respond to antibiotics. Biopsy of the enlarged lymph node contained almost no lymphoid element except for a few CD8-positive T cells, plasma cells and isolated CD30-positive blasts. The patient's condition improved following lymphadenectomy but relapse occurred 3 months later with multiple nodes, high fever and an abdominal mass. This time an ALK-positive ALCL was diagnosed and the retrospective analysis of the initial biopsy revealed rare, isolated ALK+ cells. Molecular analysis showed T-cell clones and oligoclonal B cells in both biopsies and peripheral blood of the patient. The tumour cells harbour a t(2;5) translocation, revealing a null phenotype by immunohistochemistry and no evidence for T-cell clonality by Southern blotting. The patient's serum contained anti-ALK antibodies. Our findings suggest that the T-cell clones and anti-ALK antibodies in this patient constitute an anti-tumour response that caused the hypocellularity of the initial lymph node. Hypocellular and oedematous lymph nodes occurring in a child with evocative symptoms should be tested for the presence of ALK.

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