Burkitt lymphoma (BL) and immunoblastic lymphoma (IL) are the most frequent lymphoid tumors encountered in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients. Tumors with a morphology intermediate between BL and IL, and the existence of Burkitt's type translocations in some IL cases makes the classification of these tumors sometimes unclear. We have studied 14 cases of BL and IL in HIV-seropositive individuals with regard to clonality, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) association, and the presence of c-myc rearrangement. Of seven tumors with morphology of BL, all were monoclonal, six showed a c-myc rearrangement and four were associated with EBV. Five tumors with morphology of IL were associated with EBV and devoid of c-myc rearrangement. Three were polyclonal representing EBV-driven lymphoproliferations similar to those observed in transplant recipients. Two tumors, one with a morphology of IL and the other intermediate between IL and BL were monoclonal, associated with EBV, and harbored a c-myc rearrangement. We propose that these last two tumors represent cases of BL that have adopted an immunoblastic morphotype in the context of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), reflecting the morphologic evolution of Burkitt lymphoma cells observed in culture.

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