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Am J Pathol. 1997 Aug;151(2):343-51.

The monoclonal antibody ALK1 identifies a distinct morphological subtype of anaplastic large cell lymphoma associated with 2p23/ALK rearrangements.

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Department of Pathology, University of Leuven, Belgium.


Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a heterogeneous group of diseases by morphology, phenotype, genotype, and clinical presentation. Using a new monoclonal antibody (ALK1) that recognizes the native anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) protein as well as the fusion product of the t(2;5)(p23;q35), nucleophosmin (NPM)/ALK, we investigated for ALK expression cases diagnosed as ALCL as well as lympho-proliferative disorders possessing overlapping features with ALCL. Thirteen cases showed cytoplasmic staining of the neoplastic cells. These cases were characterized by a fairly uniform morphology and occurred in children and young adults as a systemic disease. All other cases comprising T or null ALCL (17 cases), B ALCL (8 cases), Hodgkin's disease (HD) (15 cases), HD-like ALCL (23 cases), and lymphomatoid papulosis (9 cases), were negative for ALK expression. Translocation t(2;5)(p23;q35) was found by classical cytogenetics or interphase fluorescence in situ hybridization in 8 of the ALK1-positive cases and by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction in 1 other case. Two additional ALK1-positive cases with an abnormal karyotype, but without t(2;5)(p23;q35), showed by fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis a cryptic NPM/ALK gene fusion caused by an insertion of ALK near NPM in one case and a translocation of ALK to 2q35 as a result of an indiscernible inv(2)(p23q35) in the other. The latter variant translocation points to a localization of an unknown gene at 2q35 that, like NPM, might deregulate ALK and be involved in the pathogenesis of ALCL. In summary, immunohistochemistry with ALK1 antibody allows the identification of a distinct subgroup within the ALCL of T or null phenotype that is associated with 2p23 abnormalities and lacks the marked histological pleomorphism described in ALCL in general. Whereas immunostaining is the most sensitive method to identify this group, it does not help to additionally clarify the relationship among ALCL, HD, and HD-like ALCL.

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