There Are No Magic Bullets in Hematopathology: Even Immunostains for CD20 and CD3 Can Get You Into Trouble

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Abstract

Immunohistochemistry is a powerful tool for the diagnosis and subclassification of hematolymphoid neoplasms. However, the expression of certain markers is not always as expected, and unusual patterns of staining can lead to misdiagnosis. CD20 and CD3 are our most commonly used markers for identification of B cells and T cells, respectively, and they almost always yield reliable, specific staining. This discussion focuses on diagnostic pitfalls related to the use of immunohistochemistry for CD20 and CD3 in hematopathology, and specifically on diagnostic challenges that arise when (1) CD20 is not expressed in B-cell lymphomas, when (2) CD20 is expressed in plasma cell neoplasms and T-cell lymphomas, and when (3) CD3 is expressed in B-cell lymphomas and Hodgkin lymphoma.

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