A study was performed to investigate the utility of polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based analysis of immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) gene rearrangements for the diagnosis of low-grade malignant B-cell lymphomas on formalin-fixed, EDTA-decalcified, and paraffin-embedded bone marrow trephine biopsies. On amplifying two DNA samples per biopsy, no reproducible monoclonal PCR result was found in 32 patients with reactive lymphoid hyperplasias. In contrast, 5/14 patients with known low-grade B-cell lymphomas, but histomorphologically and immunohistochemically lymphoma-free bone marrow, showed a reproducible monoclonal IgH gene rearrangement. In three of these cases, sequence analysis revealed completely different amplification products on comparing bone marrow and lymph node infiltrations, while in the other two cases the products were identical. In one of the latter biopsies, an unequivocal lymphoma infiltrate was found after step sectioning of the biopsy, while the other case remained lymphoma-free according to conventional criteria. A third group of three patients with known lymphomas and bone marrow findings that were suggestive but not diagnostic of bone marrow involvement showed monoclonal PCR results in all three cases, with identical sequences in bone marrow and extramedullary lymphoma infiltrates. These data suggest that a reproducible monoclonal IgH gene rearrangement is highly specific for the presence of malignant B-cells in bone marrow. In staging procedures for low-grade B-cell lymphomas, PCR yields no additional information in cases that are morphologically and immunohistochemically lymphoma-free after evaluation of representative sections. PCR may be useful in equivocal cases, provided that IgH gene rearrangements of extramedullary lymphoma and bone marrow are sequenced and compared.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.