Polymerase chain reaction-based clonality testing in tissue samples with reactive lymphoproliferations: usefulness and pitfalls. A report of the BIOMED-2 Concerted Action BMH4-CT98-3936

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Abstract

Lymphoproliferations are generally diagnosed via histomorphology and immunohistochemistry. Although mostly conclusive, occasionally the differential diagnosis between reactive lesions and malignant lymphomas is difficult. In such cases molecular clonality studies of immunoglobulin (Ig)/T-cell receptor (TCR) rearrangements can be useful. Here we address the issue of clonality assessment in 106 histologically defined reactive lesions, using the standardized BIOMED-2 Ig/TCR multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) heteroduplex and GeneScan assays. Samples were reviewed nationally, except 10% random cases and cases with clonal results selected for additional international panel review. In total 75% (79/106) only showed polyclonal Ig/TCR targets (type I), whereas another 15% (16/106) represent probably polyclonal cases, with weak Ig/TCR (oligo)clonality in an otherwise polyclonal background (type II). Interestingly, in 10% (11/106) clear monoclonal Ig/TCR products were observed (types III/IV), which prompted further pathological review. Clonal cases included two missed lymphomas in national review and nine cases that could be explained as diagnostically difficult cases or probable lymphomas upon additional review. Our data show that the BIOMED-2 Ig/TCR multiplex PCR assays are very helpful in confirming the polyclonal character in the vast majority of reactive lesions. However, clonality detection in a minority should lead to detailed pathological review, including close interaction between pathologist and molecular biologist.

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