T-cell lymphomas with similar morphology but with different sites of origin have a different clinical behavior. The theoretical explanation for this finding originates from the hypothesis that non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHLs) are neoplastic equivalents of immunological reactions involving tissue-restricted lymphocytes. This hypothesis also implies that T-NHLs originating from different sites differ in their genesis, and thus may differ in oncogen expression, expression of adhesion molecules, or presence of certain DNA/RNA viral sequences. Therefore, we have investigated in T-cell lymphomas with similar morphology originating from different sites, ie, nose (n = 5; all pleomorphic small- or medium- and large-cell T-cell lymphomas [PTL]), skin (PTL, n = 6; anaplastic large-cell [ALCL], n = 11), gut (PTL, n = 8; ALCL, n = 4), and lung (PTL, n = 6), the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) at the DNA, RNA (EBER 1 and EBER 2), and protein level (LMP-1). A double- staining technique was used to detect EBER 1/2, LMP-1, and differentiation markers at the single-cell level. High numbers of EBER 1/2-positive tumor cells (> 100 per medium power field [mpf]) were found in five of five nasal T-cell lymphomas, none of 17 primary cutaneous T-cell lymphomas, one of 12 gastrointestinal T-cell lymphomas (ALCL), and two of six pulmonary T-cell lymphomas. These lymphomas are therefore called EBV-associated lymphomas. In contrast to our earlier findings in lymph nodes, no extranodal lymphomas were found, with only a few EBV-positive tumor cells. Five gastrointestinal cases positive for EBV by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) showed that EBER 1/2 was only found in sporadic nonneoplastic, ie, reactive lymphocytes. Angiocentricity was present in 18 PTL and one ALCL, but not associated with the presence of EBV. These results indicate that the presence of EBV in extranodal T-cell lymphomas is site-restricted and argues for a different pathogenesis of T-cell lymphomas with similar morphology but originating from different sites. The presence of EBV in most tumor cells in these EBV-associated lymphomas suggests that when present, EBV might be important in the pathogenesis of these lymphomas.

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