Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma variants: an update

Pathology. 2020 Jan;52(1):53-67. doi: 10.1016/j.pathol.2019.08.013. Epub 2019 Nov 15.


Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common type of lymphoma, representing approximately one-third of all cases worldwide. In the World Health Organization (WHO) classification of lymphomas, most cases of DLBCL are designated as not otherwise specified (NOS). About 20% of cases, however, are designated as specific variants of DLBCL. These variants, 13 in total, are specified on the basis of distinctive morphological or immunophenotypic findings or distinctive biological or clinical issues associated with their diagnoses. In this review we discuss the following variants: T-cell/histiocyte-rich large B-cell lymphoma; ALK-positive large B-cell lymphoma; plasmablastic lymphoma; intravascular large B-cell lymphoma; large B-cell lymphoma with IRF4 rearrangement; primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma; primary cutaneous diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, leg type; primary diffuse large B-cell lymphoma of the central nervous system; diffuse large B-cell lymphoma associated with chronic inflammation; lymphomatoid granulomatosis; primary effusion lymphoma; and HHV8-positive diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, NOS. Two additional variants recognised in the WHO classification, EBV-positive diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and EBV-positive mucocutaneous ulcer are discussed elsewhere in another review within this issue of Pathology. Although not recognised as a specific variant in the current WHO classification, primary testicular diffuse large B-cell lymphoma also has unique biological features and requires some modification of the standard treatment approach for patients with DLBCL. Therefore, we suggest that primary testicular diffuse large B-cell lymphoma also should be recognised as a specific variant of DLBCL in a future version of the WHO classification.

Keywords: Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; World Health Organization classification; variants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / pathology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping / methods
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors / metabolism
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / pathology*
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / virology
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / virology


  • Interferon Regulatory Factors
  • interferon regulatory factor-4