Background: The role of BCL2 as a predictor of survival in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is controversial. DLBCL is heterogeneous, and the expression of BCL2 is variable within the two major subgroups of DLBCL, germinal center B-cell-like (GCB) and activated B-cell-like (ABC) DLBCL, as well as primary mediastinal DLBCL.
Patients and methods: In this study, we investigated the correlation of BCL2 expression with survival in the two major subgroups of DLBCL, as well as the mechanisms of BCL2 expression.
Results: There was no significant correlation between BCL2 protein expression and overall survival within the GCB subgroup, but BCL2 expression had a significant adverse effect on overall survival within the ABC subgroup (P = .008). This correlation was also observed at the mRNA level (P < .04). The difference remained significant when the analyses were performed at different cutoff values. The t(14;18) was frequently observed in the GCB subgroup and was highly associated with BCL2 expression. Patients with ABC DLBCL did not exhibit t(14;18) but had a markedly higher frequency of chromosome 18q21 amplification, on which BCL2 resides. Thus, alternative mechanisms such as 18q21 amplification or activation of the nuclear factor-kappa B pathway, as reported previously, seem to be mainly responsible for the upregulation of BCL2 expression in the ABC subgroup.
Conclusion: Treating all DLBCL as a single entity ignores the mechanistic differences in BCL2 upregulation and obscures the prognostic significance of BCL2 expression. Hence, the significance of BCL2 and other biomarkers should be assessed in the context of DLBCL subgroups in future studies.