The gray zone between malignant and reactive processes in lymphoproliferative diseases

Amos Tonen*, Isaac Ben-Bassat, Gideon Rechavi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The differences between reactive and malignant processes are sometimes blurred. Homogeneity is no longer a requisite for the diagnosis of lymphoma, as witnessed in mucosa-associated lymphatic tissue lymphoma and T-cell-rich B cell lymphoma, which are composed of an admixture of neoplastic clonal B cells and reactive T cells which occasionally are very prominent in the histological picture. Infectious mononucleosis, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, composite lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease, all share many similarities and may actually represent a continuous spectrum of pathological conditions. Immunodeficiency states, whether primary or acquired, are commonly associated with clonal lymphatic malignancies preceded by a polyclonal lymphoproliferative stage, which is usually reversible by reducing immunosuppression. The distinction between these stages is sometimes difficult to assess. Immunologists have so far failed to find a lymphatic tumor-specific antigen, hence, monoclonality is usually based on a constellation of factors, namely homogeneity of the phenotypic expression of few antigens, aberrant expression of antigens and restricted expression of κ- or λ-chains in malignancies expressing surface immunoglobulins. Nonrandom chromosomal translocations as well as other aberrations, usually important in the diagnosis of malignancy, are sometimes of limited value. This is mainly due to the existence of translocations [like t(14;18) and t(2;5)] in nonmalignant states, and their non-specificity [the existence of t(8;14) in Burkitt’s lymphoma and large cell lymphoma, t(2;5) in Hodgkin’s disease and anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and t(14;18) in large cell lymphoma evolving from follicular lymphoma and Burkitt’s lymphoma]. The diagnostic tools available in 1995, although usually sufficient, are sometimes unable to distinguish between malignancy and reactivity. Some problematic cases will be more accurately defined as lying in the gray zone, or as belonging to a spectrum ranging between reactivity and malignancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-125
Number of pages6
JournalActa Haematologica
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • Antigen
  • B cell lymphoma
  • Clonality
  • Composite
  • Lymphoma
  • Mucosa-associated lymphatic tissue
  • T-cell-rich
  • Tumor-specific


Dive into the research topics of 'The gray zone between malignant and reactive processes in lymphoproliferative diseases'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this