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A prompt distinction of Burkitt lymphoma (BL) versus diffuse large B cell lymphomas (DLBCL) has important clinical implications; however, this distinction can be difficult. We analyzed 74 adult gray zone and 10 reference pediatric BL using immunohistochemistry (Ki-67, CD10, bcl2, bcl6) and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) for MYC, BCL2, and BCL6 breakpoints. Two algorithms for classification were followed: algorithm A used a two-step review by four hematopathologists and algorithm B a set of only biologic markers (Ki-67 >= 90%, CD10 , bcl6 , bcl2-, MYC breakpoint , BCL2 and BCL6 breakpoint-). Both algorithms categorized all reference cases as BL. In the adult group, algorithm A resulted in 21 adult BL and 52 DLBCL and algorithm B in 23 BL and 51 "non-Burkitt" lymphomas (nBL); 9 cases (12%) contained two different translocations and were categorized as nBL in algorithm B. Fifteen cases (20%) fulfilled the BL criteria of both algorithms. Although not considered as BL according to both algorithms, many other lymphomas showed nonetheless a phenotypic and/or genetic shift to BL. BL according to algorithm B was more homogeneous with respect to clinical presentation (gender and localization) than BL defined by algorithm A. Our data suggest that only a few cases of these gray zone lymphomas represent true de novo BL. Immunohistochemistry for Ki-67, CD10, and bcl2 with analysis of MYC and preferably also BCL2 and BCL6 may be advised as a marker panel for this diagnostic dilemma.

(C) 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.