Follicular lymphoma (FL) pathogenesis is a complex and fascinating multi-hit process, escalating along successive derailments of the distinctive molecular and cellular mechanisms paving B-cell differentiation and activation. This progressive subversion of B-cell receptor diversification mechanisms and B-cell homeostasis likely occurs during a protracted preclinical phase of asymptomatic growth, in which premalignant clones already disseminate and establish "niches" in secondary lymphoid organs. Following FL diagnosis, a parallel indolent behavior is observed in most patients, slowly progressing over a period of many years, to eventually generate a highly refractory (and in some case transform into an aggressive subtype of) lymphoma. Novel insights in human germinal center B-cell biology recently allowed a more comprehensive understanding of the various illegitimate events sequentially involved in the premalignant progression phases. In this review, we will discuss how these new data have modified our perception of early FL pathogenesis, the new questions and challenges it opened up, and how this knowledge could impact on innovative programs of early detection, follow-up, and patient management.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.