Which histologic findings are characteristic of small noncleaved cell lymphoma?

Updated: Jun 14, 2018
  • Author: J Martin Johnston, MD; Chief Editor: Max J Coppes, MD, PhD, MBA  more...
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Small noncleaved cell lymphomas (SNCCLs) can be classified as Burkitt or non-Burkitt (Burkittlike) lymphomas. The distinction may be subtle, and its clinical significance is unclear.

Burkitt lymphoma cells are notably uniform in size and shape, and they usually contain multiple prominent nucleoli. In contrast, extensive cellular pleomorphism, or occasionally the presence of a single nucleolus in most cells, suggests a diagnosis of Burkittlike lymphoma. SNCCL cells have slightly more cytoplasm than do lymphoblastic lymphoma cells. The cytoplasm is basophilic and usually contains lipid-filled vacuoles.

Macrophages often infiltrate the tumors, lending the classic starry-sky appearance. However, this observation is not pathognomic of Burkitt lymphoma.

The tumor cells are mature B cells, as evidenced by the surface expression of immunoglobulin (usually immunoglobulin M), CD19, CD20, and HLA-DR. CALLA is usually present.

Immunophenotyping results suggest that Burkittlike lymphoma cells are more likely than Burkitt lymphoma cells to express the BCL-6 oncogene, and they exhibit relatively low levels of apoptosis. [55]

Because of the features described, Burkittlike lymphoma appears to be biologically distinct from Burkitt lymphoma; it is perhaps most closely related to the B-cell LCLs.

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