Extranodal marginal-zone B-cell lymphoma (MZBL) of mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) arising in the thymus is rare, with the largest series in the literature including only three cases. In the present study, we investigated 15 cases of thymic MALT lymphoma to systematically characterize its clinical, histopathological, and molecular features. There was a marked female predilection (male:female = 1:4), with a mean age of 55 years at diagnosis. There was a strong association with autoimmune disease, especially Sjögren's syndrome. Histologically, the thymic lymphoma showed the characteristic morphological features of extranodal MZBL of MALT type. Cysts were common. Prominent lymphoepithelial lesions were formed by centrocyte-like cells infiltrating and expanding the Hassall's corpuscles and epithelium lining the cysts. Plasmacytic differentiation was apparent in all cases. Notably, 13 of 15 cases expressed immunoglobulin (Ig) A phenotype; IgA expression in thymic MALT lymphoma was in striking contrast with the IgM phenotype observed in most of the Sögren's syndrome-associated MZBLs and MALT lymphomas at other sites. Epstein-Barr virus was absent, and API2-MALT1 gene fusion, a recently reported MALT lymphoma-specific gene abnormality, was not detected in any case. Although one patient died of disease 85 months after the diagnosis, other patients were alive with overall 3-year and 5-year survival rates being 89% and 83%, respectively. Among the 22 patients reported previously and in the present series, at least 17 patients (77%) were Asians. These data indicate that thymic MALT lymphoma may represent a distinct subgroup of MALT lymphoma characterized by apparent predilection for Asians, a strong association with autoimmune disease, frequent presence of cysts, consistent plasma cell differentiation, tumor cells expressing IgA phenotype, and consistent lack of API2-MALT1 gene fusion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine