T cell/histiocyte-rich large B-cell lymphoma: an update on its biology and classification

Virchows Arch. 2011 Dec;459(6):557-63. doi: 10.1007/s00428-011-1165-z. Epub 2011 Nov 12.


T cell/histiocyte-rich large B-cell lymphoma (THRLBCL), originally considered an uncommon variant of Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL), is recognized by the World Health Organisation as a separate clinicopathological entity since 2008. It predominantly affects middle aged men often presenting with advanced stage disease frequently involving spleen, liver and bone marrow at time of diagnosis. According to the WHO, this lymphoma is morphologically characterized by less than 10% of large neoplastic B cells in a background of abundant T cells and frequently histiocytes. Differentiating THRLBCL from other lymphoproliferative disorders such as Nodular Lymphocyte Predominant Hodgkin Lymphoma (NLPHL) and Lymphocyte-Rich classical Hodgkin lymphoma (LRcHL) is important from a clinical point of view and can be achieved in most cases, given adequate biopsy specimens, by careful morphological and immunohistochemical evaluation of both the neoplastic cells as well as the nonneoplastic stromal component. According to this WHO definition, THRLBCL is still considered a clinically heterogeneous entity, though it is noted that especially the cases containing numerous histiocytes behave aggressively and show resistance to current therapies for DLBCL. Gene expression profiling studies of THRLBCL provided evidence for a prominent role for this histiocytic component that is important for a tolerogenic host immune response in which they may assist neoplastic cells in escaping the T cell-mediated immune surveillance. Therefore, reserving the diagnosis of THRLBCL to cases containing a large proportion of histiocytes might be relevant, as modulating their activity could provide new therapeutic options.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Histiocytes / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / classification*
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / diagnosis
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / pathology*
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / classification
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / diagnosis
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • World Health Organization