Differentiating lymphoblastic lymphoma and Ewing's sarcoma: lymphocyte markers and gene rearrangement

Mod Pathol. 2001 Nov;14(11):1175-82. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.3880455.


We encountered a child with an intraosseous small round cell tumor that was negative for LCA, CD20 (L26), and CD3 and positive for vimentin, CD99 (MIC-2), and periodic acid-Schiff. The tumor exhibited rosette-like formations. This case was initially interpreted as Ewing's sarcoma (ES); however, additional studies revealed positivity for CD79a, CD43, and TdT expression, and an immunoglobulin heavy chain gene rearrangement (IgH-R) by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) established this to be a precursor B-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Because the differential diagnosis of ES and lymphoblastic lymphoma can be difficult and the differential diagnostic value of leukocyte antigens and immunoglobulin heavy chain gene rearrangement studies have not been fully evaluated, we conducted a more extensive investigation on 33 (21 soft tissue and 12 intraosseous) ES cases. Cases were retrieved from the files of the Department of Pathology at Georgetown University and from the Soft Tissue Registry of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. The cases were studied by light microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and PCR for IgH-R and T cell receptor gamma chain gene rearrangement (Tgamma-R). There were 17 females and 16 males; the mean age was 29.3 years. Locations included the extremities (n = 17) and trunk (n = 16). All cases fit the ES spectrum by light microscopy and immunohistochemistry, as previously determined, and were negative for lymphoid markers (LCA, CD3, CD20, CD43, CD79a, and TdT), CD10 and CD34. CD99 was positive in 31/33 and bcl-2 was weakly positive in 13/33 cases. All 21 cases studied for gene rearrangements by PCR were negative for IgH-R and Tgamma-R. Distinction of intraosseous lymphoblastic lymphoma from ES may be difficult because lymphomas may occasionally exhibit unexpected morphologic and immunophenotypic properties including LCA, CD3 and CD20 negativity and cytokeratin positivity. Additional analysis using CD79a, CD43, TdT, and PCR should be performed to avoid misdiagnosis. True ES is negative for lymphoid markers including CD79a, CD43, and TdT, as well as for IgH-R and Tgamma-R.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • 12E7 Antigen
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Bone Neoplasms / genetics
  • Bone Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / analysis
  • Child
  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / genetics
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphocytes / chemistry
  • Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / genetics
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / metabolism
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / metabolism
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / analysis
  • Sarcoma, Ewing / genetics
  • Sarcoma, Ewing / metabolism
  • Sarcoma, Ewing / pathology*
  • Vimentin / analysis


  • 12E7 Antigen
  • Antigens, CD
  • Biomarkers
  • CD99 protein, human
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Vimentin