Complete staging via bone marrow assessment is standard of practice for most newly diagnosed non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) patients, though the methods and patterns of bone marrow assessment vary in clinical practice. The 2014 Lugano Classification recommends that in diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET/CT) alone can designated advanced-stage disease in many, but not all cases. For most other NHL subtypes, obtaining bone marrow biopsy (BMB) remains recommended. We aimed to assess clinical practice patterns of marrow assessment and the performance of PET/CT in the clinical setting.


The Lymphoma Epidemiology of Outcomes (LEO) cohort is a prospective cohort from 8 academic medical centers. All patients were enrolled in the cohort within 6 months of diagnosis, and prospectively followed. Patients with lymphoma enrolled in the cohort between July 2015 and June 2017 were included for study. Baseline clinical characteristics at diagnosis, whether BMB and/or PET/CT were performed, and the result of these assessments were extracted from the database. Bone marrow involvement on PET/CT was abstracted via review of radiology reports. No central review of images was utilized.


In total, 3,251 patients were included, consisting of the following subtypes: DLBCL (n=1,098), follicular lymphoma (FL n=730), mantle cell lymphoma (MCL n=302), T-cell lymphoma (TCL n=278), marginal zone lymphoma (MZL n=269), other NHL (n=505) and composite lymphoma (n=69). Other clinical characteristics are shown in table 1. Staging BMB was obtained in 78% of patients, PET/CT was obtained in 56%, both BMB and PET/CT were obtained in 46% while neither were obtained in 9% (table 1). There were significant differences in lymphoma subtype between patients having any bone marrow assessment vs no bone marrow assessment (p<0.0001). MCL (96%) and DLBCL (94%) most frequently had any bone marrow assessment, while MZL was least frequently assessed (84%). Patients undergoing any bone marrow assessment had higher median lactate dehydrogenase (247 U/L vs 206 U/L, p=0.0002). Among the 8 enrolling medical centers, the frequency of bone marrow biopsy at diagnosis ranged from 53% to 86%, and the frequency of PET/CT at diagnosis ranged from 34% to 94% (p<0.0001, table 1).

Among patients with DLBCL who had positive bone marrow by either PET/CT or BMB (N=107), 41% (44/107) were positive by BMB only, 19% (20/107) were positive by PET/CT only, and 40% (43/107) were positive by both. Figure 1 shows results of similar analyses for FL, MCL, MZL, and TCL. Using BMB as a gold standard for marrow involvement, the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) of PET/CT for marrow assessment in DLBCL is 49%, 90%, 68% and 91%, respectively. Data for other subtypes are shown in table 2. Patients undergoing both PET/CT and BMB had lower median LDH (231 U/L vs 254 U/L, p=0.0032) than those undergoing one or neither assessments.


Overall, 91% of all patients with newly diagnosed NHL had bone marrow assessments via either PET/CT, BMB or both. The significant variation in the frequency of BMB and PET/CT use among the 8 centers reflects a lack of clear consensus on staging practices regarding bone marrow assessment. The sensitivity of PET/CT for detection of marrow involvement was less than 50% across all subtypes. It is possible the sensitivity of PET/CT could be improved via a centralized review process of the images, as is performed in some clinical trials, however practical approaches for implementing such reviews in clinical practice have not been developed. Between 92-100% of all positive bone marrows were detected by BMB, except in cases with DLBCL in which 19% of positive bone marrows were missed by BMB but detected by PET/CT. Thus, in our analysis, BMB more reliably captured marrow involvement that PET/CT in all subtypes in which both assessments were performed. However, neither PET/CT nor BMB alone were able to identify all cases of bone marrow involvement and use of both modalities may be necessary in cases where marrow involvement would have clinically important implications.


Rutherford:Juno Therapeutics Inc: Consultancy, Honoraria; Janssen Scientific Affairs: Consultancy, Honoraria; Seattle Genetics: Consultancy, Honoraria; Verastem: Consultancy, Honoraria; Karyopharm: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; AstraZeneca: Consultancy, Honoraria; Celgene: Consultancy, Honoraria; Heron: Consultancy, Honoraria. Kahl:ADC Therapeutics: Consultancy, Research Funding; Seattle Genetics: Consultancy; TG Therapeutics: Consultancy; BeiGene: Consultancy. Lossos:Janssen Scientific: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; NIH: Research Funding; Seattle Genetics: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Friedberg:Acerta: Other: Data & Safety Monitoring Committee; Bayer: Honoraria, Other: Data & Safety Monitoring Committee. Casulo:Celgene: Research Funding; Roche: Other: Travel, accommodation, expenses; Gilead: Honoraria, Other: Travel, accommodation, expenses. Cohen:Astra Zeneca: Research Funding; Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, Inc.: Research Funding; Hutchison: Research Funding; Gilead/Kite: Consultancy; Bristol-Meyers Squibb Company: Research Funding; LAM Therapeutics: Research Funding; UNUM: Research Funding; Lymphoma Research Foundation: Research Funding; ASH: Research Funding; Seattle Genetics, Inc.: Consultancy, Research Funding; Janssen Pharmaceuticals: Consultancy; Genentech, Inc.: Consultancy, Research Funding. Nastoupil:TG Therapeutics: Honoraria, Research Funding; Novartis: Honoraria; Spectrum: Honoraria; Celgene: Honoraria, Research Funding; Janssen: Honoraria, Research Funding; Genentech, Inc.: Honoraria, Research Funding; Gilead: Honoraria; Bayer: Honoraria. Flowers:Denovo Biopharma: Consultancy; Spectrum: Consultancy; National Cancer Institute: Research Funding; Optimum Rx: Consultancy; Burroughs Wellcome Fund: Research Funding; Acerta: Research Funding; Bayer: Consultancy; BeiGene: Consultancy, Research Funding; Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group: Research Funding; TG Therapeutics: Research Funding; Genentech, Inc./F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd: Consultancy, Research Funding; Gilead: Consultancy, Research Funding; Karyopharm: Consultancy; AstraZeneca: Consultancy; Pharmacyclics/Janssen: Consultancy, Research Funding; AbbVie: Consultancy, Research Funding; V Foundation: Research Funding; Millenium/Takeda: Research Funding; Celgene: Consultancy, Research Funding. Cerhan:Janssen: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Celgene: Research Funding; NanoString: Research Funding. Martin:Sandoz: Consultancy; Karyopharm: Consultancy; Celgene: Consultancy; Teneobio: Consultancy; I-MAB: Consultancy; Janssen: Consultancy.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.