Anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a distinct biological and cytogenetic entity with a broad spectrum of morphological features (common type, small-cell variant and lymphohistiocytic variant). Few cell lines of ALCL are available and they all originate from primary tumors demonstrating the common type morphology (ie large-sized lymphoma cells). We established a new ALCL cell line (COST) from the peripheral blood of a patient with a small-cell variant of ALCL, at diagnosis. Cells growing in vitro and in SCID mice consisted of two populations, that is, small- and large-sized cells as seen in the patient's tumor. Both large and small malignant cells were positive for CD43/MT1 T-cell associated antigen, perforin, granzyme B and TIA-1, but negative for CD2, CD3, CD5, CD7, CD4 and CD8 antigens. Standard cytogenetic studies as well as multiplex FISH confirmed the presence of the canonical t(2;5)(p23;q35) translocation, but also revealed additional numerical and structural abnormalities. The COST cell line is the first ALCL small-cell variant cell line, and thus provides a potentially useful tool for further functional and molecular studies that should improve our understanding of the small-cell variant of ALCL, which is more frequently complicated by a leukemic phase.