How is Burkitt lymphoma characterized in the histologic findings of NHL/B-cell lymphoma?

Updated: Feb 23, 2021
  • Author: Mohammad Muhsin Chisti, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Burkitt lymphoma is a B-cell lymphoma with an extremely short doubling time that often presents in extranodal sites or as an acute leukemia. Involved tissues are effaced by a diffuse infiltrate of monomorphic, medium-sized (nuclei similar or smaller to those of histiocytes) transformed lymphoid cells.

The nuclei are round with finely clumped and dispersed chromatin, with multiple basophilic medium-sized paracentrically situated nucleoli. The cytoplasm is deeply basophilic and usually contains lipid vacuoles (see the images below). A high mitotic index is typical, as is apoptotic tumor cell death, accounting for the presence of numerous tissue macrophages with their ingested tissue debris. These macrophages are often surrounded by a clear space, creating the characteristic starry sky pattern.

Burkitt lymphoma. Normal architecture is entirely Burkitt lymphoma. Normal architecture is entirely replaced by lymphoma cells and evenly dispersed macrophages, starry sky (250×).
Burkitt lymphoma cells with round noncleaved nucle Burkitt lymphoma cells with round noncleaved nuclei and strongly basophilic cytoplasm (1000×).

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