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Am J Surg Pathol. 1992 Sep;16(9):859-67.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma with Reed-Sternberg-like cells and possible transformation to Hodgkin's disease. Mediation by Epstein-Barr virus.

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Division of Anatomic Pathology, City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, California 91010.


The pathogenesis of Reed-Sternberg cells and variants (RS-H cells) found in rare cases of chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL) is unknown. We studied 13 such cases by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization for identification of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) RNA. The RS-H cells in five cases expressed the B-lineage marker CD20 and were negative for CD15. In two cases, the RS-H cells showed expression of both CD20 and CD15, whereas in another six cases, the cells were positive for CD15 but negative for CD20. Three of the cases expressing CD15 showed subsequent evidence of disseminated Hodgkin's disease. Regardless of the phenotype or clinical behavior, the RS-H cells in 12 of 13 cases were found to contain EBV RNA by in situ hybridization, but the surrounding neoplastic lymphocytes were invariably negative for EBV RNA. It is suggested that EBV has an important role in the pathogenesis of the RS-H cells in these rare cases.

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