World Health Organization classification of neoplastic diseases of the hematopoietic and lymphoid tissues: report of the Clinical Advisory Committee meeting-Airlie House, Virginia, November 1997

J Clin Oncol. 1999 Dec;17(12):3835-49. doi: 10.1200/JCO.1999.17.12.3835.


Purpose: The European Association of Hematopathologists and the Society for Hematopathology have developed a new World Health Organization (WHO) classification of hematologic malignancies, including lymphoid, myeloid, histiocytic, and mast cell neoplasms.

Design: Ten committees of pathologists developed lists and definitions of disease entities. A clinical advisory committee (CAC) of international hematologists and oncologists was formed to ensure that the classification would be useful to clinicians. The CAC met in November 1997 to discuss clinical issues related to the classification.

Results: The WHO uses the Revised European-American Lymphoma (REAL) classification, published in 1994 by the International Lymphoma Study Group, to categorize lymphoid neoplasms. The REAL classification is based on the principle that a classification is a list of "real" disease entities, which are defined by a combination of morphology, immunophenotype, genetic features, and clinical features. The relative importance of each of these features varies among diseases, and there is no one gold standard. The WHO Neoplasms recognizes distinct entities defined by a combination of morphology and cytogenetic abnormalities. At the CAC meeting, which was organized around a series of clinical questions, participants reached a consensus on most of the questions posed. They concluded that clinical groupings of lymphoid neoplasms were neither necessary nor desirable. Patient treatment is determined by the specific type of lymphoma, with the addition of grade within the tumor type, if applicable, and clinical prognostic factors, such as the International Prognostic Index.

Conclusion: The WHO classification has produced a new and exciting degree of cooperation and communication between oncologists and pathologists from around the world, which should facilitate progress in the understanding and treatment of hematologic malignancies.

Publication types

  • Congress
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Hematologic Neoplasms / classification*
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / immunology
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / classification*
  • World Health Organization*