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Large Cell Lymphoma Transformation of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma
A Flow Cytometric Analysis of Seven Cases

Steven H. Kroft MD, D. Brian Dawson PhD, Robert W. McKenna MD
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1309/F5WE-K2T8-BT9D-Q56D 385-395 First published online: 1 March 2001


We studied 7 cases of large cell transformation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL) immunophenotyped by multiparameter flow cytometry. The 6 women and 1 man ranged in age from 45 to 91 years. All had previous or concurrent evidence of CLL/SLL. Morphologic features and sites of involvement of the diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) were heterogeneous; 2 cases had paraimmunoblastic morphologic features. Six DLBCLs had an immunophenotype consistent with CLL: CD19+, CD5+, CD23+, and FMC7 negative (3 cases) or very dim (2 cases); 1 case was not studied for FMC7. CD20 was dim in 3 of these, moderate to bright in 2, and variable in 1. Surface immunoglobulin was dim in 2 cases and moderate or bright in 4. Five of 6 expressed CD38. Comparison with the immunophenotypes of the previous or coexistent CLL/SLL (4 of 6 cases) revealed minor modulations in antigen expression but no major alterations. The seventh DLBCL lacked CD5 expression, but otherwise had immunophenotypic features similar to CLL. These findings indicate that DLBCL arising in CLL/SLL tends to retain a CLL immunophenotype, in contrast with de novo CD5+ large cell lymphomas that uncommonly express such a phenotype.

Key Words:
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Richter syndrome
  • Flow cytometry
  • CD5