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Am J Surg Pathol. 2004 May;28(5):679-86.

Distinct clonal origin in two cases of Hodgkin's lymphoma variant of Richter's syndrome associated With EBV infection.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, CHU Sart-Tilman, Liege, Belgium.


Occurrence of an aggressive lymphoma in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), clinically referred to as Richter's syndrome, occasionally manifests as a lymphoproliferation resembling Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) and often containing the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Only a limited number of HL variants have been subject to informative analysis regarding their clonal relationship to the CLL, with evidence of a same clonal origin in some cases and of clonally unrelated neoplasms in other cases. In this paper, we performed a detailed pathologic, virologic, and molecular analysis of two cases of Richter's syndrome with HL features. The first case occurred in a 65-year-old man with a 5-year history of CLL as a mediastinal and supraclavicular mass histologically diagnosed as lymphocyte depleted HL with no background CLL. The second case occurred in a 78-year-old woman with a 4-year history of CLL as an inguinal mass with a composite histologic appearance comprising areas of CLL, areas of CLL with Hodgkin Reed-Sternberg cells, and areas of HL. Both patients had received fludarabine therapy. The HRS cells were CD20-/CD30+/CD15-/J-chain- in case no. 1 and CD20+/-/CD30+/CD15-/J-chain- in case no. 2. In both cases, the Hodgkin's Reed-Sternberg cells (HRS) were positive for type A EBV, and a 30-bp deletion of the LMP-1 gene was detected in case no. 2. Using microdissection and polymerase chain reaction amplification of the immunoglobulin heavy chain gene (IgH) complementarity determining region III of each cell type, we demonstrated a distinct clonal origin for the CLL cells and the HRS in both cases. These cases bring support to the hypothesis that EBV+ HL in CLL patients occurs as unrelated secondary neoplasms most likely as the result of the immune depression associated with CLL and also raise the question of a possible causal role of fludarabine.

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