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Original article

Vol. 143 No. 1516 (2013)

Determination of the molecular subtypes of diffuse large B-cell lymphomas using immunohistochemistry

  • Rebekka Reber
  • Yara Banz
  • Esther Garamvölgyi
  • Aurel Perren
  • Urban Novak
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2013;143:w13748


The two major subtypes of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) (germinal centre B-cell - like (GCB-DLBCL) and activated B-cell - like (ABC-DLBCL)) are defined by means of gene expression profiling (GEP). Patients with GCB-DLBCL survive longer with the current standard regimen R-CHOP than patients with ABC-DLBCL. As GEP is not part of the current routine diagnostic work-up, efforts have been made to find a substitute than involves immunohistochemistry (IHC). Various algorithms achieved this with 80–90% accuracy. However, conflicting results on the appropriateness of IHC have been reported. Because it is likely that the molecular subtypes will play a role in future clinical practice, we assessed the determination of the molecular DLBCL subtypes by means of IHC at our University Hospital, and some aspects of this determination elsewhere in Switzerland. The most frequently used Hans algorithm includes three antibodies (against CD10, bcl-6 and MUM1). From records of the routine diagnostic work-up, we identified 51 of 172 (29.7%) newly diagnosed and treated DLBCL cases from 2005 until 2010 with an assigned DLBCL subtype. DLBCL subtype information was expanded by means of tissue microarray analysis. The outcome for patients with the GCB subtype was significantly better compared with those with the non-GC subtype, independent of the age-adjusted International Prognostic Index. We found a lack of standardisation in the subtype determination by means of IHC in Switzerland and significant problems of reproducibility. We conclude that the Hans algorithm performs well in our hands and that awareness of this important matter is increasing. However, outside clinical trials, vigorous efforts to standardise IHC determination are needed as DLBCL subtype-specific therapies emerge.


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