Identification of Common Germinal-Center B-Cell Precursors in Two Patients with Both Hodgkin's Disease and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

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Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphoma occasionally occur in the same patient. The identification of a common precursor of the two types of lymphoma would show definitively that Reed-Sternberg cells originate from B cells.


We studied lymphomas from two patients, one with a composite lymphoma (classic Hodgkin's disease and a follicular lymphoma in the same lymph node) and the other with a T-cell-rich B-cell lymphoma that was followed by classic Hodgkin's disease. Single Reed-Sternberg cells and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cells from frozen sections were micromanipulated. The rearranged immunoglobulin variable-region genes (V genes) of the heavy and light chains were amplified by the polymerase chain reaction from genomic DNA and sequenced.


In both patients, the Reed-Sternberg cells were related clonally to the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma B cells. The V genes carried somatic mutations (a hallmark of germinal-center B cells and their descendants). In both patients, some somatic mutations were shared by the Reed-Sternberg and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cells, whereas other somatic mutations were found exclusively in one or the other cell type.


In two patients with classic Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphoma, we identified a common B-cell precursor, probably a germinal-center B cell, for both lymphomas. This finding suggests that the two types of lymphoma underwent both shared and distinct transforming events and provides proof of the B-cell derivation of Reed-Sternberg cells in classic Hodgkin's disease. (N Engl J Med 1999;340:1239-47.)

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