To determine the T-cell lineage of the malignant lymphoblast in lymphoblastic lymphoma, tumor cells from nine patients were phenotyped employing a T-cell subset specific heteroantisera, TH2. The normal human peripheral blood T-cell compartment is composed of 80% TH2- negative and 20% TH2-positive T cells, as defined by reactivity with subset specific heteroantisera. Human suppressor cells are TH2 reactive, whereas helper cells are TH2 unreactive. Tumor cells from the majority of patients with lymphoblastic lymphoma were TH2 reactive in contrast to the lack of reactivity previously described in the majority of patients with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Comparative clinical studies, including disease presentation and course, were correlated with the presence of the TH2 antigen on the tumor cell. These results provide evidence to support the notion of heterogeneity in the T-lymphoblastic malignancies and suggest that lymphoblastic lymphoma and T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia are probably not a single disease process.

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