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Primary Mediastinal Nodal and Extranodal Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas

Current Concepts, Historical Evolution, and Useful Diagnostic Approach

Part 1

Piña-Oviedo, Sergio MD*; Moran, Cesar A. MD

doi: 10.1097/PAP.0000000000000249
Review Articles

Primary mediastinal non-Hodgkin lymphomas (PM-NHLs) represent ~5% of all NHLs and comprise lymphomas of B-cell and T-cell origin. PM-NHLs are defined as involvement of mediastinal lymph nodes, thymus, and/or mediastinal organs (heart, lung, pleura, pericardium) by NHL without evidence of systemic disease at presentation. The clinical scenario is variable and depends on the lymphoma subtype. The radiologic presentation is also variable ranging from a mediastinal mass with or without superior vena cava syndrome, a pleural or a cardiac mass associated with an effusion, or as an effusion only. The diagnosis of PM-NHLs can only be established by microscopic evaluation, and therefore, general pathologists should be aware of these tumors and familiar with their diagnostic approach. The most common anterior mediastinal NHLs (90% to 95%) are primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma and T lymphoblastic lymphoma. Thymic marginal zone lymphoma and mediastinal gray zone lymphoma are very rare. The remainder PM-NHLs involving middle or posterior mediastinum include diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and rare cases of T-cell lymphoma, including anaplastic large cell lymphoma and breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma extending to the anterior mediastinum. Primary pleural and cardiac NHLs are mostly DLBCLs. Other rare subtypes of PM-NHLs include DLBCL associated with chronic inflammation/pyothorax-associated lymphoma, fibrin-associated DLBCL (both EBV+), and pleural and/or pericardial primary effusion lymphoma (HHV-8+/EBV+). We review the historical aspects, epidemiology, clinico-radiologic features, histopathology, immunohistochemistry, differential diagnosis, and relevant cytogenetic and molecular features of PM (thymic) LBCL, PM “nonthymic” DLBCL, BCL, unclassifiable, with features intermediate between DLBCL and classic Hodgkin lymphoma (mediastinal gray zone lymphoma), DLBCL associated with chronic inflammation (pyothorax-associated lymphoma), fibrin-associated DLBCL, and primary effusion lymphoma. This review represents the first part of 2 manuscripts covering PM-NHLs.

*Department of Pathology, The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR

Department of Pathology, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

All figures can be viewed online in color at

Reprints: Cesar A. Moran, MD, Department of Pathology, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd. Suite 3595, Houston, TX 77030 (e-mail:

Online date: September 17, 2019

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