Challenges in utilizing ALK expression to distinguish primary cutaneous from systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma

Mol Clin Oncol. 2024 Mar 19;20(5):35. doi: 10.3892/mco.2024.2733. eCollection 2024 May.


Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a CD30+ peripheral T-cell lymphoma with a clinical spectrum including cutaneous and systemic presentations. While primary cutaneous ALCL (pcALCL) has a favorable prognosis, systemic ALCL (sALCL) has poorer survival outcomes. Expression of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) by malignant cells has been suggested to distinguish sALCL from pcALCL. However, there have been documented cases of ALK-positive ALCL confined to the skin. The present study reviewed characteristics of published cutaneous ALK-positive ALCL cases to distinguish between these two entities. In 23 identified adults with ALK-positive pcALCL, 26% developed systemic involvement and 74% had skin-limited disease. In 14 pediatric patients, 36% had both cutaneous and systemic involvement and 64% had cutaneous disease only. This analysis revealed that pcALCL and sALCL could not reliably be distinguished by ALK expression or nuclear vs. cytoplasmic localization. Localized treatment with frequent monitoring may be sufficient in ALK-positive pcALCL until there is evidence of progression. Physicians should be aware of the overall spectrum of ALCL, including cutaneous limited disease, systemic disease, disease with NPM-ALK translocation, disease with ALK positivity and disease with skin recurrence.

Keywords: anaplastic large cell (CD30+) lymphoma; anaplastic lymphoma kinase; primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma; systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

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Funding: No funding was received.