Histopathology forms the basis for the diagnosis, classification,
treatment and prognosis of non-Hodgkin malignant lymphomas. Nowadays
several reliable methods are being used in the pathology laboratories
for the identification of the various cell types of the normal lymphoid
tissues and their neoplastic counterparts; such methods are aimed at a
better understanding of the nature of the malignant lymphomas and their
reasonable classification. They include classic morphology,
histochemistry, immunohistochemistry, image analysis/ flow cytometry and
molecular pathology techniques such as gene rearrangement methodology,
polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in situ hybridization and DNA
clonality. Morphology is the mainstay of the malignant lymphoma
examination process. It includes the cell morphology itself as well as
the patterns of homing of either T or B zones of the lymphoid tissues by
the neoplastic cells. Although cell morphology can be used to identify
accurately only some cell types (e.g. plasma cells), in most instances
it can provide substantial information on the B or T-cell nature of the
lymphomatous cells. It is undoubtedly sufficient to distinguish
substantial morphological categories of malignant lymphoma (e.g.
centroblastic/centrocytic, lymphoplasmacytoid/cytic, and some types of
peripheral T-cell lymphomas). It seems unreasonable to use more
sophisticated methods of investigating lymphomas when they are not
preceded and supported by the data of the traditional morphological
methods which are more simple, inexpensive and offer significant
directory possibilities. Cytochemical and histochemical (on frozen or
paraffin sections) enzyme stains are useful to reach a differential
diagnosis. Acid phosphatase, acid non-specific esterase, chloroacetate
esterase  and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)  are the most
valuable ones. Not only mere enzyme positivity but also the pattern of
their intracellular distribution is of importance. For example acid
phosphatase and acid non-specific esterase are negative or fine
granularly positive in B cells and strongly and diffusely positive in
histiocytes. T lymphocytes show a focal spotty positivity for both
enzymes. In particular, acid phosphatase is present in the lymphoid
cells of the central lymphoid organs (e.g. thymocytes) and in peripheral
T-cell lymphocytes as well, while acid non-specific esterase
characterizes only the peripheral T lymphocytes and mainly CD4 helper T
cells. Chloroacetate esterase positivity is expressed by cells of
granulocytic series and mast cells. TdT characterizes the lymphoid cells
of thymic and prethymic stage as well as those of Pre-B type. These
enzyme staining are being applied less and less and are substituted by
the immunohistochemical use of monoclonal antibodies either against
enzymes or, more importantly, against epitopes characterizing various
cell categories of lymphocytic, monocytic or even myelocytic origin. Of
great help in the differential diagnosis of malignant lymphomas is the
immunohistochemical demonstration of various surface or cytoplasm
markers: immunoglobulins, enzymes such as TdT, lysozyme and elastase of
leukocytes as well as antigens characterizing various categories of
cells (e.g. antigens of lymphocyte differentiation, antigens specific
for T or B cells, antigens of monocytes/histiocytes, CALLA,
HLA-antigens, antigens of IL-2R, TCR etc). It must be emphasized that
new monoclonal antibodies are being produced that recognize special cell
subcategories such as the follicular center lymphoid cells, the helper
(CD4) and suppressor (CDS) T cells, the follicular dendrite cells
(FDRC), the interdigitating reticulum cells (CD6), the NK cells (CD57),
etc. In addition, monoclonal antibodies which can recognize on paraffin
sections epitopes characterizing B or T cells, dendritic cells and
monocytes/histiocytes (e.g. CD20, LN1, LN3, UCHL1, beta F1, CD21, CD68,
MAC etc.)  become more and more numerous.

     Even with the use of various specific monoclonal antibodies a
certain percentage of malignant lymphomas remain negative for both B and
T-cell markers, thus deserving the designation of "null cell" lymphomas.
The use of molecular pathology techniques [12-15] offers a substantial
aid in such instances as well as in problems concerning cell origin,
aetiopathogenicity and prognosis. In fact, gene rearrangement analysis
has shown that many of the "null" lymphoblastic malignant lymphomas have
rearrangements of the immunoglobulins genes while a considerable number
of "null" large cell lymphomas have T-cell receptor rearrangements .
In-situ hybridization is useful for the demonstration of specific RNA or
DNA corresponding to cellular or viral components (Igs-RNA, EBER and
EBNA for EBV etc.). It must be emphasized that the polymerase chain
reaction (PCR) and in-situ hybridization can in many instances be
applied to paraffin-embedded material [17,18]. Moreover, the PCR
technique can be used to raise the sensitivity of in-situ hybridization
in paraffin sections.

An applicable classification should combine scientific correctness with
a high prognostic value, a high rate of reproducibility and significant
clinical and epidemiological correlation. During the past few decades
several more or less successful attempts to classify lymphomas have been
made. Two classifications prevail:  the Kiel classification  and the
international working formulation, IWF . The use of one or both of these
classifications is necessary since pathologists and clinicians require a
common reference. However, it must be stressed that in many cases the
two classifications are not automatically interchangeable and therefore
the degree of the pathologist's experience is decisive. Both
classifications apply better to lymph node malignant lymphomas, since
the extranodal lymphomas frequently display significant peculiarities in
their morphology, phenotype, genotype and clinical behavior. Such cases
are lymphomas of the gastrointestinal tract and the so-called MALTomas
in general , lymphomas of the skin [25,26], large cell lymphomas of the
mediastinum , and lymphomas of the nasal cavities [29].

Both classifications, Kiel and IWF, have their advantages and
disadvantages. The Kiel classification has the advantages of a)
incorporating morphology and immunology and distinguishing categories of
B and T-cell lymphomas;

b) separating lymphomas into low and high grade of malignancy; c)
subdividing T-cell malignant lymphomas into several groups; d) including
peculiar categories of lymphomas such as marginal zone/B-monocytoid cell
and large cell (Ki-1+) anaplastic lymphomas. The only disadvantage of
the Kiel classification is that it designates as low-grade malignant
lymphomas some entities like centrocytic (mantle cell), AILD-like,
T-zone and peripheral pleomorphic small T-cell lymphomas, although their
course is either relatively aggressive or unpredictable. The IWF
classification, on the other hand, is purely descriptive and does not
distinguish between B and T-cell entities. The T-cell distinction is
completely absent. In addition to high and low grade of malignancy, the
IWF distinguishes a third, intermediate grade. This distinction seems
unnecessary as most of the lymphomas belonging to this latter group
behave and are treated like those of high-grade malignancy [30,31],
while some of them should be placed in the low-grade category. In the
present work the Kiel classification is used primarily, and an attempt
is made to correlate it with the IWF. Some peculiar lymphoma entities of
histopathogenic, prognostic or differential diagnostic importance which
are difficult to incorporate into either of the above classifications
are described separately.

Low Grade Malignant Lymphomas

Low-grade malignant lymphomas are histologically characterized by the
presence of small or medium-sized lymphoid cells. Sometimes they are
mixed with limited numbers of larger blastic cells, for example in the
so-called centroblastic-centrocytic malignant lymphomas.

Lymphocytic Lymphoma

The malignant lymphomas included in this group consist mainly of
lymphocytes or their forms of prolymphocytes and hairy cells. They
belong more frequently to the B than to the T-cell lineage.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia of B-cell type (B-CLL)

This is characterized by infiltration with B lymphocytes that do not
show any transformation to Ig-secretory cells such as lymphoplasmacytoid
and plasmacytic cells. This interruption of maturation could be
attributed partly to defective CD4+ helper T cells and partly to an
increased activity of CD8+ suppressor T cells . Immunohistochemically 
the neoplastic lymphocytes express the B-cell antigens CD20, CD22 and
CD23, are either kappa or lambda monoclonal and show SIg of the IgM
class, frequently together with IgD. However, not rarely B-CLL
lymphocytes especially after micro-wave retrieval may show some
intracytoplasmic Ig-positivity. This fact, in conjunction with the
positivity for CDS antigen, raises the possibility of B-CLL and
lymphoplasmacytoid immunocytoma being variants of the same entity [34].
They seem to be histogenetically related to CDS-positive lymphocytes of
the primary follicle or the follicular mantle zone [35]. B-CLL does not
occur in subjects under 20 years of age. It shows generalized
lymphadenopathy and usually a leukemia picture with bone marrow
infiltration. According to Rappaport's group cases of lymphocytic
lymphoma [32,36] may exist without any synchronous or metachronous
leukemia picture. Effacement of the normal lymph node structure is
observed histologically due to diffuse infiltration with maturing
lymphocytes [34,36-38]. Among these larger lymphocytes, the
prolymphocytes [39], are found with less dense chromatin and prominent
nucleoli as well as large cells, the paraim-munoblasts with basophilic
cytoplasm, oval nuclei and central, prominent nucleoli. They are
sometimes dispersively distributed but more frequently form clusters
(pseudofollicular foci or proliferation centers, Fig. 1). Mitoses and
positivity for the proliferation antigen Ki-67 are present only in
prolymphocytes and paraimmunoblasts where also most of the p53
oncoprotein positivity is expressed [40]. The greater the proliferation
centers, the more tumors is the appearance of the lymph nodes. About 4%
of the cases eventually develop into true, high-grade malignant
lymphoma, usually immunoblastic (Richter's syndrome) [41]. In some cases
a development of giant cells similar to Hodgkin and Sternberg-Reed cells
superimposes the B-CLL morphology. Such cells are positive for
Epstein-Barr virus elements (LMP, EBER) and Ki-1 (CD30) antigen, a fact
which renders possible a relationship of such cases with Hodgkin's
disease [42]. Patients usually survive for many years without any
substantial therapy. The extent of bone marrow infiltrates and their way
of distribution are of particular importance [43]. More favorable
prognosis have the cases with nodular patterns (Fig. 2) while cases with
diffuse distribution survive less. The prognosis also seems to depend on
the size and number of proliferation centers in the lymph nodes [44].

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia of T-cell type (T-CLL)

In T-CLL the lymph nodes are less pronounced and the spleen enlargement
is more prominent than in B-CLL. The bone marrow is not always
infiltrated while skin involvement is frequent. The diffusely
infiltrated lymph nodes show proliferation of postcapillary venues.
Proliferation centers are absent. The neoplastic lymphocytes have
morphological and immunohistochemical characteristics of either CD4+
helper or CD8+ suppressor T cells [45,46]. Rare cases show a mixed
immunophenotype with simultaneous CD4 and CDS positivity in the same

Hairy cell leukemia

Hairy cells often show hair-like projections of their cytoplasm [47] on
hematological smears and imprints. These projections are better
recognized by electron microscopy. In the majority of cases the cells
represent a peculiar, not fully defined B-cell variety [48,49]. Some
authors relate hairy cells to B-monocytoid marginal zone cells of the
lymph node cortex and to centrocyte-like cells of mucous-associated
lymphoid tissue [50,51]. In very rare instances the hairy cells reveal
characteristics of a T-cell [52] or even a monocytic [53,54] phenotype.
Hairy cells are identified by their positivity to tartrate-resistant
acid phosphatase and to acidify non-specific esterase [55]. In addition,
monoclonal antibodies exist which recognize antigenic epitopes on hairy
cells [56]. The usual immunophenotype of hairy cells corresponds to
CD22, CD20 and CD29 positivity and CD5 and CD23 negativity. Hairy cells
are also stained for HML-1 antibody, which was initially found to
recognize intraepithelial T lymphocytes [57]. They also show positivity
for CD11 c (KiM1 and KiM1 P in frozen and paraffin sections,
respectively). Hairy cells are larger than typical lymphocytes with
irregular ellipsoid or reniform nuclei. They stay apart from each other
because of their relatively abundant cytoplasm which is hardly
recognizable in H+E stained paraffin sections [47]. Lymph nodes are
involved in advanced stages of the disease. Organs which are infiltrated
early and whose biopsy contributes to the establishment of the diagnosis
are bone marrow, spleen and liver. In bone marrow (Fig. 3) reticular
fibers and even fibrosis are abundant [47] and responsible for the
dry-tap reported by hematologists. In the spleen the infiltrates mainly
occupy the cords of the expanded red pulp. The picture of the peripheral
blood is not always clearly leukemia. Hairy cell leukemia in which the
HTLV-2 virus has in some way been implicated [58] displays a rather
indolent and long lasting course especially after appropriate therapy.
The percentage of Ki-67-positive hairy cells is very low. However,
second malignancies do occur in hairy cell leukemia patients 

Lymphoplasmacytic/Lymphoplasmacytoid Lymphoma (LP-immunocytoma)

Histologically, LP-immunocytoma resembles B-CLL. In addition it shows
various numbers of Ig-secreting cells of plasmacytic or
lymphoplasmacytoid appearance [34]. The latter have moderate to abundant
cytoplasm with rough endoplasmic reticulum-like plasma cells and a
nucleus reminiscent of lymphocytes. PAS-positive intranuclear
inclusions, representing Igs, are often found. Immunohistochemically 
plasmacytic and plasmacytoid cells reveal cytoplasm monoclonal
immunoglobulins [34,60, 61], which in descending frequency belongs to
IgM, IgG or IgA. In 35% of the cases a paraproteinaemia is present.
LP-immunocytoma is the tissue ground of the so-called macroglobulinaemia
of Waldenstrom. In rare cases neoplas-tic cells produce only heavy or
light chains of Igs, resulting in heavy (IgM, IgG) or light-chain
disease, respectively. Two histological subtypes of LP-immunocytoma are
described. The lymphoplasmacytoid subtype is morphologically and
immunophenotypically more like B-CLL. It shows lymphoplasmacytoid cells
and a phenotype of CD19+, CD20+, CD22+, CD5+ and CD23+ [62]. It not
infrequently shows a leukemia picture and borderline cases to B-CLL
exist [34].

The Lymphoplasmacytic subtype includes among the other neoplastic
lymphocytes classic monoclonal plasma cells. The phenotype of neoplastic
cells corresponds to CD19+, CD20+, CD22+, CDS- and CD23+/-. The presence
of follicular dendritic cells, a feature reminiscent of MALTomas,
characterizes more than half of the cases of the Lymphoplasmacytic
subtype [63,64]. The prognosis of LP-immunocytoma is slightly more
unfavorable than that of B-CLL. Accordingly, the percentages of
Ki-67-positive lymphoid cells are slightly higher in LP-immunocytoma
than in B-CLL. Paradoxical-ly it seems that leukemia cases have a better
prognosis than aleukaemic cases [65]. The high-grade malignant lymphomas
which may develop from LP-immunocytoma are usually immunoblastic.

Plasmacytic Lymphoma (Plasmacytoma)

Plasmacytes represent the end stage of differentiation of B cells after
antigenic stimulation. From this point of view Plasmacytoma must be
considered as a kind of lymphoma. Here we mainly discuss the
extramedullary Plasmacytoma [66], which more frequently involve the
upper respiratory tract. However, Plasmacytoma of the gastrointestinal
tract, the testes and the lungs, among other organs, are no curiosities.
Primary lymph node Plasmacytoma represents about 0.8% of non-Hodgkin
lymphomas. The neoplastic plasma cells display Immunohistochemically
monoclonal CIg, usually of the IgA, less frequently of the IgG and
rarely of the IgM class [66]. Their immunophenotype corresponds to
CD19-, CD20-' CD22- and PCA1/CD38+ [67,68]. Not infrequently, however,
they express one or more haematopoietic and non-haematopoietic antigens,
thus complicating the differential diagnosis [69]. Basically there is no
histogenetic difference between extramedullary Plasmacytoma and multiple
myelomas. Moreover, solitary Plasmacytoma of the bone occur [70,71] and
extramedullary Plasmacytoma may develop typical multiple myelomas.
Extramedullary Plasmacytoma do not often display paraproteinaemia. Their
prognosis is much better than that of multiple myelomas.

Mantle Cell Lymphoma

This type, formally called centrocytic lymphoma [72], corresponds to
intermediate lymphocytic lymphoma of the Rappaport group [73,74]. It has
been proved that it derives from mantle cells of the follicles and has
nothing to do with the centrocyte of the follicular (germinal) centers
[75,76]. Histologically, the neoplasm consists of small to medium-sized
centrocyte-like cells (Fig. 5a) with irregular, cleaved nuclei [72,74].
By definition no neoplastic cells with blastic appearance are found
among the cleaved cells. Instead, a small number of T cells can be
found. Very often the vessel wall, mostly of the capillaries, is
thickened and hyalinized. The growth pattern is rather diffuse,

but not infrequently a modularity is seen. in early stages of growth a
mantle-like neoplastic infiltration around reactive germinal centers is
observed. Immunophenotypically they are strongly and simultaneously
positive for surface IgM and IgD [75-77]. Their phenotype corresponds to
a subtype of cells of the follicular mantle zone being CD19+, CD20+,
CD22+ and especially CD5+ and CD23-. The phenotypes of the various
categories of centrocyte-like cells are given in Table 3. The mean
number of mitoses and Ki67-positive neoplastic cells is much higher than
that found in B-CLL, LP-immunocytoma and centroblastic/ centrocytic
malignant lymphoma. Mantle cell lymphoma can also be distinguished from
the latter on the basis of molecular genetic differences. It shows the
translocation t(11;14) (q13;q32) causing bcl-~\ gene rearrangement,
while very often centroblastic/centrocytic lymphoma (especially the
nodular type) shows the translocation t(14;18) causing bcl-2 gene
rearrangement [75,78]. Mantle cell lymphoma has a much worse prognosis
than B-CLL, LP-immunocytoma and centroblastic/centrocytic lymphomas
[79]. It has been shown that t(11 ;14) chromosomal translocation
occurring in mantle cell lymphoma results in overexpression of a cyclin
gene, PRAD1 [80]. The median survival time is less than 4 years. Mantle
cell lymphomas represent 10% of non-Hodgkin lymphomas and the great
majority occur at ages over 20.

According to the IWF classification most of the cases of mantle cell
lymphoma can be categorized as either "diffuse small cleaved cell" or
"diffuse large cleaved cell" lymphoma, although the reverse does not

Centroblastic/centrocytic Lymphoma

uНКmitoses. Immunohistochemically these cells display a phenotype of
mature T cells: CD2+, CD3+, CD5+ and CD4+ [133,134]. Ki-67 positivity is
almost exclusively seen in the CD4-positive neoplastic cells and not in
the coexistent CDS-positive reactive cells. TCP gene rearrangement
studies have confirmed the T-cell origin of Lennert's lymphoma
[135,136]. Some neoplastic cells have a pale to clear cytoplasm and may
even become larger and immunoblastic. In very rare cases may the cells
resemble Stemberg-Reed cells. Small numbers of eosinophils and plasma
cells may be found. Formally this kind of lymphoma was confused with
Hodgkin's disease and angioimmunoblastic lymphadenopathy [137,138] or
even with LP-immunocytoma [134, 138] containing numerous epithelioid
cells. Development into a high-grade malignant lymphoma of the
T-immunoblastic, Ki-1+ large cell anaplastic and large T-cell
pleomorphic type is not infrequent [133,139]. The prognosis of Lennert's
lymphoma is rather unfavorable. Survival depends on the clinical stage
of the disease and its median value does not exceed 12 months. It is
said that sufficiently aggressive therapy may improve the survival rates
[140, 141].

According to the IWF Lennert's lymphoma in its typical form .could be
categorized as "diffuse, mixed small and large cell malignant lymphoma".

T-cell Lymphoma of AILD Type (AILD-like ML)

Immunoblastic [142] or angioimmunoblastic [143] lymphadenopathy appears
clinically as a systemic disease with generalized lymphadenopathy,
spleen and liver enlargement, Coombs-positive hemolytic anemia,
polyclonal hyperglobulinaemia, drug hypersensitivity and skin eruptions.
Histologically the effacement of the lymph node architecture is complete
or almost complete. Some "burnt-out" [143] pale stained germinal centers
may be found. Arborizing vessels of the post-capillary venules type show
strong proliferation even outside the lymph-nodal capsule. PAS-positive
amorphous material in thickened vascular walls and among cells
characterizes most of the cases. The infiltrating cell population is
polymorph, consisting of lymphocytes, plasma cells, dispersed
immunoblasts, histiocytes and eosinophils [142-144]. In some cases the
presence of epithelioid cells is prominent [142, 145]. AILD, occurring
more frequently in elderly patients, was initially considered as a
hyper-immune reaction [142-143] due to drugs or other immunogens. After
the first description in Japan of peripheral T-cell lymphoma resembling
immunoblastic lymphadenopathy [146], it became gradually obvious that
the majority of so-called AILD represent a real T-cell lymphoma. The
elements which favor such a view are: 

a) in most cases and in the vicinity of the proliferating vessels
accumulations of atypical T cells with clear cytoplasm are found 

b) in many cases chromosomal abnormalities (trisomy 3 or 5) are
documented [147,148]; c) TCR gene rearrangement methods have
demonstrated clonality of T cells regarding TCR-B and tcr-y chain genes
[149-151]. However, in part of the cases there is an additional
IgH-chain gene rearrangement [149]. Immunohistochemically the
proliferating T cells (Ki-67+) are most frequently CD4 positive whereas
in a minority of cases the proliferating cells show CDS positivity
[149]. The latter is related to the presence of IgH chain gene
rearrangement. Another histological and immunohistochemical
characteristic of AILD-type lymphoma is the abundance of hyperplastic
follicular dendritic cells [152] inside as well as outside the
"burnt-out" germinal cells, even among the Arborizing vessels.

Although non-neoplastic, immunoreactive cases of AILD occur [144], the
prognosis is generally poor, especially for cases of AILD-type T-cell
lymphoma. The mean survival time was about 24 months after combined
prednisone and chemotherapy [153]. It seems that the group with CDS
positivity and IgH chain gene rearrangement has a relatively better
prognosis [149]. In over 10% of AILD-type T-cell lymphomas
transformation into high-grade malignant lymphoma of the large T-cell
pleomorphic, T-immunoblastic or large cell anaplastic (Ki-1+) type
occurs. The finding of light chain (k or ^) monoclonal plasma cells and
immunoblasts [154,155] could be explained either as a true B-cell
lymphoma or as reactive B-cell clone expansion induced by the helper
activity of the CD4-positive neoplastic cell clone.
Aetiopathogenetically AILD-type T-cell lymphoma has been related to
viruses such as rubella [156], herpes-like [157] and Mazon-Pfizer monkey
virus [158].

Pleomorphic Small T-cell Lymphoma

Although occurring also in childhood, pleomorphic small T-cell lymphoma
shows its incidence peak after 60 years of age. The tumor cells may be
HTLV-1 positive, especially in Japan and the Caribbean area.
Histologically the lymph nodes are diffusely involved by small-sized
(Fig. 11a) pleomorphic cells. Their nuclei are gyroid, indented or
irregular with small nucleoli. The cytoplasm is rather scarce and pale
to clear [20,120,159]. Skin involvement is common. Usually, all types of
peripheral T-cell lymphomas show more mitoses than their morphological
analogues among B-cell lymphomas. In addition, they frequently show
epidermotropism/epitheliotropism and angiotropism. Immunohistochemically
they have the phenotype of helper CD4-positive T cells (Fig. 11b). With
molecular methods they reveal clone gene rearrangement for tcr-y or
TCR-B. Despite the "cytic" appearance of the neoplastic cells and the
initial absence of "blastic" cells, the prognosis of pleomorphic small
T-cell lymphomas is poor. Neoplastic cells undergo an early activation
and transformation to large cells, resulting in development of
high-grade malignant T-cell lymphoma. Pleomorphic small T-cell lymphoma
is rather difficult to be categorized in the IWF.