nm-PMBLsig+ tumors represent a distinct group of DLBCLs that share molecular features with bf-PMBL.
Mutational patterns and anatomic presentations suggest distinct evolutionary modes between nm-PMBLsig+ tumors and bf-PMBL.
Primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma (PMBL) is a type of aggressive B-cell lymphoma that typically affects young adults, characterized by presence of a bulky anterior mediastinal mass. Lymphomas with gene expression features of PMBL have been described in nonmediastinal sites, raising questions about how these tumors should be classified. Here, we investigated whether these nonmediastinal lymphomas are indeed PMBLs or instead represent a distinct group within diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). From a cohort of 325 de novo DLBCL cases, we identified tumors from patients without evidence of anterior mediastinal involvement that expressed a PMBL expression signature (nm-PMBLsig+; n = 16; 5%). A majority of these tumors expressed MAL and CD23, proteins typically observed in bona fide PMBL (bf-PMBL). Evaluation of clinical features of nm-PMBLsig+ cases revealed close associations with DLBCL, and a majority displayed a germinal center B cell–like cell of origin (GCB). In contrast to patients with bf-PMBL, patients with nm-PMBLsig+ presented at an older age and did not show pleural disease, and bone/bone marrow involvement was observed in 3 cases. However, although clinically distinct from bf-PMBL, nm-PMBLsig+ tumors resembled bf-PMBL at the molecular level, with upregulation of immune response, JAK-STAT, and NF-κB signatures. Mutational analysis revealed frequent somatic gene mutations in SOCS1, IL4R, ITPKB, and STAT6, as well as CD83 and BIRC3, with the latter genes significantly more frequently affected than in GCB DLBCL or bf-PMBL. Our data establish nm-PMBLsig+ lymphomas as a group within DLBCL with distinct phenotypic and genetic features. These findings may have implications for gene expression– and mutation-based subtyping of aggressive B-cell lymphomas and related targeted therapies.