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Blood. 1997 Feb 1;89(3):980-9.

Cytotoxic cell antigen expression in anaplastic large cell lymphomas of T- and null-cell type and Hodgkin's disease: evidence for distinct cellular origin.

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  • 1Hematopathology Section, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is composed of large, frequently bizarre, cells of T- or null-cell phenotype that show a preferential sinusoidal growth pattern and consistent CD30 positivity. Whether these tumors represent a single entity or several, and what the exact cell origin, is controversial. Recently, granzyme B, a cytotoxic granule component, was reported in a small percentage of ALCL, suggesting that some cases may originate from cytotoxic lymphocytes. To further investigate this possibility, we performed an immunohistochemical study of 33 ALCLs of T- and null-cell type, using monoclonal antibodies to cytotoxic cell-associated antigens, including CD8, CD56, CD57, and the cytotoxic granular proteins perforin and TIA-1. In addition, CD4 expression was also evaluated. ALCL cases included 27 classical systemic forms and variants, 3 primary cutaneous (PC) forms, and 3 acquired immunodeficiency syndrome-associated forms. Cytotoxic antigen expression was also studied in 51 cases of Hodgkin's disease (HD) and 17 large B-cell lymphomas (LBCLs) with anaplastic cytomorphology and/ or CD30 positivity. We found that 76% of ALCLs, representing all subtypes except the PC forms, expressed either TIA-1, perforin, or both proteins. Expression of TIA-1 and perforin were highly correlated (P < .001). On the basis of their immunophenotypic profiles, several subtypes of cytotoxic antigen positive and negative ALCL could be recognized. Fifty-five percent of ALCLs (18 of 33) displayed an immunophenotypic profile consistent with cytotoxic T cells. Six cases expressed cytotoxic granular proteins in the absence of lineage specific markers, and one case expressed both T-cell- and natural killer cell-like markers. These 7 cases (21%) were placed into a phenotypic category of cytotoxic lymphocytes of unspecified subtype. Twenty-four percent (8 cases) of ALCLs were cytotoxic granule protein negative. All but one of these displayed a T-cell phenotype. Cytotoxic granule protein expression did not correlate with the presence of the NPM-ALK fusion transcript. Only 10% of the 51 HD cases were found to be TIA-1+, and none expressed perforin. Cytotoxic antigen expression was absent in LBCL. The expression of cytotoxic granule proteins in the majority of ALCL implies a cytotoxic lymphocyte phenotype and suggests that most cases originate from lymphocytes with cytotoxic potential. Furthermore, the demonstration of cytotoxic cell related proteins may be a useful addition to the current panel of antibodies used to distinguish ALCL, HD, and anaplastic LBCL.

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