The term histiocyte refers to cells of either the macrophage or Langerhans cell lineages. The histiocytic disorders are characterized by the proliferation of cells of these lineages. With recent advances in knowledge of the developmental biology of histiocytic cells, it is now possible to formulate a reasonable catalogue of histiocytic diseases based on ultra-structural and phenotypic markers of cellular origins and molecular or chromosomal markers of malignancy. The catalogue includes the following groups of diseases. Nonmalignant reactive macrophage disorders include (1) macrophage storage diseases, (2) several benign proliferative macrophage disorders that predominantly involve skin and bone, and (3) several hemophagocytic syndromes that vary from indolent and benign to fulminant and fatal. In some of the latter disorders, viruses have been identified as the inciting stimulus. The malignant macrophage disorders include (1) acute monocytic leukemia and (2) chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. A rare disorder that gave rise to a permanent cell line with an anomaly of chromosomal segment 5q35 may also be an example of a histiocytic malignancy. The existence of a separate category of true histiocytic lymphoma of macrophage type is uncertain. Reactive Langerhans cell disorders include (1) congenital self-healing histiocytosis, (2) the many variants of eosinophilic granuloma, and (3) a related disorder designated as relapsing Langerhans cell histiocytosis that is characterized by a relapsing course and infiltration of bone and soft tissues by Langerhans cells. Presumptively neoplastic diseases of Langerhans and dendritic cells include (1) progressive Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a disease with prominent involvement of blood and BM as well as skin and viscera; (2) Langerhans cell lymphoma, and (3) dendritic cell lymphoma. However, clonality as a marker of malignancy has not been proven in these disorders.

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