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Richter's Syndrome

Richter's Syndrome is a rare transformation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) into an aggressive lymphoma; usually diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Under 10% of people with CLL develop Richter's syndrome (RS), usually several years after the original of diagnosis of CLL. There are at least two biologically different types of RS: most are clonally related where the CLL cells have transformed into DLBCL, whilst a small number are not clonally related, where the DLBCL cells are not directly related to the CLL.

Treatment of RS is covered in some of the resources listed on the page about Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

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Web Resources: Richter syndrome
Latest Research Publications

Web Resources: Richter syndrome (3 links)

Latest Research Publications

Watanabe N, Yasuda H, Morishita S, et al.
Richter's Syndrome with Hypercalcemia Induced by Tumor-Associated Production of Parathyroid Hormone-Related Peptide.
Case Rep Oncol. 2017 Jan-Apr; 10(1):123-126 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Humoral hypercalcemia due to parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP) elevation is a well-known complication of various malignancies, but the situation is rare concerning hematological malignancies except for adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma. We report a case of Richter's syndrome with humoral hypercalcemia, and demonstrate by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) that peripheral blood PTHrP levels were 2,500-fold higher compared to healthy controls. PTHrP production by tumor cells in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and Richter's syndrome has been previously demonstrated by nonquantitative methods such as immunohistochemistry and northern blot analysis, but this is the first report using the RT-PCR method. The presented case did not have hypercalcemia when initially diagnosed as small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL), and as reported earlier, the development of hypercalcemia may be an indication of the transformation to Richter's syndrome in patients with CLL/SLL.

Ismail A, Mallick JA, Qin D, Hussaini MO
Sentinel case of Richter transformation from chronic lymphocytic leukaemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma to CD3+ diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
J Clin Pathol. 2016; [PubMed] Related Publications
AIM: To report the first case of a Richter syndrome where small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) progressed to a CD3+ diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
METHODS: Macrodissection of small and large cell lymphomatous components was performed. This was followed by flow cytometric analysis along with molecular B-cell immunoglobulin (heavy and light chains) and T-cell receptor (γ and β chains) gene rearrangement studies to investigate a clonal relationship between the components.
RESULTS: The immunophenotypic profile was similar between small and large cell components of the lymphoma by flow cytometry. Furthermore, shared clonal peaks were observed between both components based on molecular B-cell and T-cell receptor gene rearrangement studies, confirming a clonal relationship.
CONCLUSIONS: Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia/SLL may rarely undergo Richter transformation to a DLBCL demonstrating lineage infidelity. This is a potentially important diagnostic pitfall and such cases should not be confused with a de novo T-cell lymphoma.

Hussaini MO, Rehman A, Chavez JC, et al.
EBV-positive Richter's syndrome with laboratory features of Burkitt's lymphoma, in Ibrutinib-treated chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Leuk Lymphoma. 2016; :1-4 [PubMed] Related Publications

Ronchi A, Marra L, Frigeri F, et al.
Richter Syndrome With Plasmablastic Lymphoma at Primary Diagnosis: A Case Report With a Review of the Literature.
Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol. 2016; [PubMed] Related Publications
Richter syndrome (RS) is considered as the rare development of an aggressive lymphoid malignancy in a preexisting small lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The most common aggressive lymphoma developing in this setting is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, but classical Hodgkin lymphoma and other much rarer entities such as prolymphocytic lymphoma and dendritic cell sarcoma are also described, most frequently in the progression of the disease over time. A clonal relation between the 2 neoplastic proliferations can be frequently found, whereas clonally unrelated cases are commonly considered as independent tumors, probably due to a variable combination of multiple causes, responsible independently for the 2 neoplasms. RS with plasmablastic lymphoma is reported very rarely, during the clinical course of the small lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Herein, an unusual case of RS with the coexistence of plasmablastic lymphoma and B-small lymphocytic lymphoma in the same lymph node at the time of first diagnosis is described.

Rossi D
Richter's syndrome: Novel and promising therapeutic alternatives.
Best Pract Res Clin Haematol. 2016; 29(1):30-39 [PubMed] Related Publications
Richter's syndrome (RS) is the development of an aggressive lymphoma in patients with a previous or concomitant diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The incidence rate for RS is ∼0.5% per year of observation. In the presence of clinical suspicious of RS, diagnosis of transformation and choice of the site of biopsy may take advantage of (18)FDG PET/CT. Molecular lesions of tumor suppression regulators (TP53), cell cycle (CDKN2A) and cell proliferation (NOTCH1, MYC) overall account for ∼90% of RS and may be responsible for its aggressive clinical phenotype. The prognosis of RS is generally highly unfavorable. However, the pattern of survival is not homogeneous and the clonal relationship between the CLL and the aggressive lymphoma clones is the most important prognostic factor. Rituximab-containing polychemotherapy represents the back-bone for induction treatment in RS. Younger patients who respond to induction therapy should be offered stem cell transplant to prolong survival.

Zdrenghea M, Bagacean C, Renaudineau Y, et al.
Isolated Cardiac Richter Syndrome: a Case Report.
Ann Hematol. 2017; 96(1):147-149 [PubMed] Related Publications

O'Brien S, Jones JA, Coutre SE, et al.
Ibrutinib for patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia with 17p deletion (RESONATE-17): a phase 2, open-label, multicentre study.
Lancet Oncol. 2016; 17(10):1409-1418 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: The TP53 gene, encoding tumour suppressor protein p53, is located on the short arm of chromosome 17 (17p). Patients with 17p deletion (del17p) chronic lymphocytic leukaemia have poor responses and survival after chemoimmunotherapy. We assessed the activity and safety of ibrutinib, an oral covalent inhibitor of Bruton's tyrosine kinase, in relapsed or refractory patients with del17p chronic lymphocytic leukaemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma.
METHODS: We did a multicentre, international, open-label, single-arm study at 40 sites in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Patients (age ≥18 years) with previously treated del17p chronic lymphocytic leukaemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma received oral ibrutinib 420 mg once daily until progressive disease or unacceptable toxicity. The primary endpoint was overall response in the all-treated population per International Workshop on Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia 2008 response criteria modified for treatment-related lymphocytosis. Preplanned exploratory analyses were progression-free survival, overall survival, sustained haematological improvement, and immunological improvement. Patient enrolment is complete, but follow-up is ongoing. Treatment discontinuation owing to adverse events, unacceptable toxicity, or death were collected as a single combined category. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01744691.
FINDINGS: Between Jan 29, 2013, and June 19, 2013, 145 patients were enrolled. The all-treated population consisted of 144 patients with del17p chronic lymphocytic leukaemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma who received at least one dose of study drug, with a median age of 64 years (IQR 57-72) and a median of two previous treatments (IQR 1-3). At the prespecified primary analysis after a median follow-up of 11·5 months (IQR 11·1-13·8), 92 (64%, 95% CI 56-71) of 144 patients had an overall response according to independent review committee assessment; 119 patients (83%, 95% CI 76-88) had an overall response according to investigator assessment. In an extended analysis with median follow-up of 27·6 months (IQR 14·6-27·7), the investigator-assessed overall response was reported in 120 patients (83%, 95% CI 76-89). 24-month progression-free survival was 63% (95% CI 54-70) and 24-month overall survival was 75% (67-81). Sustained haematological improvement was noted in 72 (79%) of 91 patients with any baseline cytopenia. No clinically relevant changes were noted from baseline to 6 months or 24 months in IgA (median 0·4 g/L at baseline, 0·6 g/L at 6 months, and 0·7 g/L at 24 months), IgG (5·0 g/L, 5·3 g/L, and 4·9 g/L), or IgM (0·3 g/L at each timepoint) concentrations. Common reasons for treatment discontinuation were progressive disease in 34 (24%) patients and adverse events, unacceptable toxicity, or death in 24 (17%) patients. Major bleeding occurred in 13 (9%) patients (11 [8%] grade 3-4). Grade 3 or worse infections occurred in 43 (30%) patients, including pneumonia in 19 (13%) patients. In the extended analysis, 38 patients died, 18 as a result of adverse events (four pneumonia, three chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, two Richter's syndrome, two sepsis, and one each of acute myocardial infarction, septic shock, encephalopathy, general deterioration in physical health, abnormal hepatic function, myocardial infarction, and renal infarction).
INTERPRETATION: A high proportion of patients had an overall response to ibrutinib and the risk:benefit profile was favourable, providing further evidence for use of ibrutinib in the most difficult subset of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma. Ibrutinib represents a clinical advance in the treatment of patients with del17p chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and has been incorporated into treatment algorithms as a primary treatment for these patients.
FUNDING: Pharmacyclics LLC, an AbbVie Company.

César A, Calistru A, Pardal J, et al.
Cutaneous Richter Syndrome mimicking a lower limb cellulitis infection - a case report and review of the literature.
Dermatol Online J. 2016; 22(5) [PubMed] Related Publications
Richter syndrome (RS) is characterized by the development of a high-grade lymphoma in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL). Herein, we present the case of an 85-year-old woman with a 3-year history of stable asymptomatic CLL that developed a cutaneous RS. The patient presented with painless inflammation in the left leg and foot that was initially diagnosed as a cellulitis infection. She was treated accordingly with ceftriaxone and clindamycin. However, after completing the antibiotic regimen, not only did the inflammation persist, but also superimposed painless nodules gradually appeared on the left leg and foot over the course of four months. The histopathological examination of the nodules revealed a large B-cell cutaneous lymphoma. The patient underwent chemotherapy with CVP, followed by R-CHOP, resulting in a reduction of size of the nodules and remission of the inflammation. The patient died five months after the diagnosis owing to a bacterial pneumonia. We identified in previous reports a total of fifteen cases of cutaneous RS. Most cases presented with rapidly growing tumors or multiple erythematous nodules, similar to our case. This case of a cutaneous RS mimicking a cellulitis infection underlines the importance of a low threshold for performing biopsies of suspicious skin lesions in patients with CLL/SLL.

Agbay RL, Jain N, Loghavi S, et al.
Histologic transformation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma.
Am J Hematol. 2016; 91(10):1036-43 [PubMed] Related Publications
Although generally considered a clinically indolent neoplasm, CLL/SLL may undergo transformation to a clinically aggressive lymphoma. The most common form of transformation, to DLBCL, is also known as Richter syndrome. Transformation determines the course of the disease and is associated with unfavorable patient outcome. Precise detection of transformation and identification of predictive biomarkers and specific molecular pathways implicated in the pathobiology of transformation in CLL/SLL will enable personalized therapeutic approach and provide potential avenues for improving the clinical outcome of patients. In this review, we present an overview of the pathologic features, risk factors, and pathogenic mechanisms of CLL/SLL transformation. Am. J. Hematol. 91:1036-1043, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Klener P, Fronkova E, Berkova A, et al.
Mantle cell lymphoma-variant Richter syndrome: Detailed molecular-cytogenetic and backtracking analysis reveals slow evolution of a pre-MCL clone in parallel with CLL over several years.
Int J Cancer. 2016; 139(10):2252-60 [PubMed] Related Publications
Richter syndrome represents the transformation of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) into an aggressive lymphoma, most frequently the diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). In this report we describe a patient with CLL, who developed a clonally-related pleomorphic highly-aggressive mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) after five cycles of a fludarabine-based second-line therapy for the first relapse of CLL. Molecular cytogenetic methods together with whole-exome sequencing revealed numerous gene alterations restricted to the MCL clone (apart from the canonical t(11;14)(q13;q32) translocation) including gain of one copy of ATM gene or emergence of TP53, CREBBP, NUP214, FUBP1 and SF3B1 gene mutations. Similarly, gene expression analysis revealed vast differences between the MCL and CLL transcriptome, including overexpression of cyclin D1, downregulation of cyclins D2 and D3, or downregulation of IL4R in the MCL clone. Backtracking analysis using quantitative PCR specifically detecting an MCL-restricted focal deletion of TP53 revealed that the pre-MCL clone appeared in the bone marrow and peripheral blood of the patient approximately 4 years before the clinical manifestation of MCL. Both molecular cytogenetic and sequencing data support the hypothesis of a slow development of the pre-MCL clone in parallel to CLL over several years, and thereby exclude the possibility that the transformation event occurred at the stage of the CLL relapse clone by mere t(11;14)(q13;q32) acquisition.

Reda G, Cassin R, Fabris S, et al.
Biological and molecular characterization of a rare case of cutaneous Richter syndrome.
Hematol Oncol. 2016; [PubMed] Related Publications
Richter syndrome (RS) is the transformation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia in a high-grade lymphoma usually presenting nodal and bone marrow involvement. Richter syndrome can be localized at extranodal sites including the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, and skin. Cutaneous RS is an extremely rare disease apparently showing a less aggressive course than common presentations. While nodal RS has been extensively investigated in literature, pathogenesis and prognosis of cutaneous RS are still partially unknown, even if a role of Epstein-Barr virus infection and p53 disruption has been suggested. Herein, we characterized the histopathological, immunohistochemical features and cytogenetics and molecular alterations of a case of cutaneous RS developed after 8 years chronic lymphocytic leukemia history. Moreover, we reviewed the literature reports concerning cutaneous RS and made a focus on biological patterns and prognostic implications.

Eyre TA, Clifford R, Bloor A, et al.
NCRI phase II study of CHOP in combination with ofatumumab in induction and maintenance in newly diagnosed Richter syndrome.
Br J Haematol. 2016; 175(1):43-54 [PubMed] Related Publications
Richter syndrome (RS) is associated with chemotherapy resistance and a poor historical median overall survival (OS) of 8-10 months. We conducted a phase II trial of standard CHOP-21 (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, prednisolone every 21 d) with ofatumumab induction (Cycle 1: 300 mg day 1, 1000 mg day 8, 1000 mg day 15; Cycles 2-6: 1000 mg day 1) (CHOP-O) followed by 12 months ofatumumab maintenance (1000 mg given 8-weekly for up to six cycles). Forty-three patients were recruited of whom 37 were evaluable. Seventy-three per cent were aged >60 years. Over half of the patients received a fludarabine and cyclophosphamide-based regimen as prior CLL treatment. The overall response rate was 46% (complete response 27%, partial response 19%) at six cycles. The median progression-free survival was 6·2 months (95% confidence interval [CI] 4·9-14·0 months) and median OS was 11·4 months (95% CI 6·4-25·6 months). Treatment-naïve and TP53-intact patients had improved outcomes. Fifteen episodes of neutropenic fever and 46 non-neutropenic infections were observed. There were no treatment-related deaths. Seven patients received platinum-containing salvage at progression, with only one patient obtaining an adequate response to proceed to allogeneic transplantation. CHOP-O with ofatumumab maintenance provides minimal benefit beyond CHOP plus rutuximab. Standard immunochemotherapy for RS remains wholly inadequate for unselected RS. Multinational trials incorporating novel agents are urgently needed.

El-Asmar J, Kharfan-Dabaja MA
Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation for Richter Syndrome.
Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2016; 22(11):1938-1944 [PubMed] Related Publications
Treatment combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy as well as novel targeted therapies have shown limited efficacy in Richter syndrome. Overall response rates after chemoimmunotherapy range from 43% to 67%, but remissions are generally short-lived. In chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (all-HCT) is considered a potentially curative treatment modality, yielding 3-year overall survival rates exceeding 50% and a plateau in survival curves. In Richter syndrome, efficacy of allo-HCT depends on demonstrating an objective response (complete remission or partial response) before allografting, with resulting 3-year survival rates of 41% to 75%. On the other hand, the efficacy of autologous HCT is limited, especially when considering that patients autografted for Richter syndrome might relapse with CLL in 35% of cases. Notwithstanding the scarcity of published data, we recommend that patients with Richter syndrome should be referred to transplant centers as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed to evaluate their candidacy for allo-HCT. Establishing a clonal relationship to CLL is important considering the more aggressive disease course in clonally related Richter syndrome. Moreover, achievement of a complete remission or partial response to salvage therapy must be a prerequisite before moving forward with allografting for Richter syndrome. Patients who fail to demonstrate an objective response to salvage therapy should be considered for enrollment in clinical trials.

Jain N, Keating MJ
Richter transformation of CLL.
Expert Rev Hematol. 2016; 9(8):793-801 [PubMed] Related Publications
INTRODUCTION: Richter transformation (RT) represents an aggressive transformation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), most commonly into diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL). It occurs in around 5% of patients with CLL.
AREA COVERED: This review will focus on the biology and treatment of RT. We also address the management of RT in the era of targeted therapies. Based on clonal relationship of large cell component to CLL, 2 distinct subtypes could be identified: clonally-related RT which carries a worse outcome, and clonally-unrelated RT where the outcomes are similar to de novo DLBCL. Aberrations of TP53, CDKN2A, MYC, and NOTCH1 are common in RT, many of which are acquired at the time of transformation. PET scan remains the imaging modality of choice for patients with suspected RT. It is important to perform a biopsy rather than fine needle aspiration (FNA) of the suspicious lesions, as FNA can lead to false negative results. Chemoimmunotherapy remains the treatment of choice, though the outcomes remain suboptimal. The median survival is less than 1 year. Novel therapies are needed for patients with RT. Expert commentary: RT remains an unmet medical need; the role of targeted therapies, including immunotherapy needs to be explored.

Soilleux EJ, Wotherspoon A, Eyre TA, et al.
Diagnostic dilemmas of high-grade transformation (Richter's syndrome) of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia: results of the phase II National Cancer Research Institute CHOP-OR clinical trial specialist haemato-pathology central review.
Histopathology. 2016; 69(6):1066-1076 [PubMed] Related Publications
AIMS: Richter's syndrome (RS) refers to high-grade transformation of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), usually to diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, as assessed according to strict World Health Organization (WHO)-defined histological criteria. Although this is a relatively evidence-poor area, the recommended clinical management of high-grade transformation differs considerably from that of relapsed CLL. The 'CHOP-OR' trial was a single-arm, multicentre, non-randomized phase II National Cancer Research Institute trial in patients with newly diagnosed RS, recruited from across the UK from April 2011 to December 2014. Forty-three patients were enrolled, of whom 37 were ultimately evaluable for response. The aim was to verify the presence of RS in the trial patients and identify pitfalls in the diagnosis of RS.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Two independent, specialist haematopathologists reviewed histological material from 40 available cases enrolled in the CHOP-OR trial to determine whether the submitted diagnosis of RS was correct. Three cases were unavailable for central review. This series represents the largest central review of RS within a prospective trial in the literature to date. Thirty-three of the 40 (82.5%) submitted cases showed features consistent with WHO-defined RS. Reasons for diagnostic uncertainty in discrepant cases included large proliferation centres, variably confluent and serpiginous proliferation centres, and an apparently high proliferation index, sometimes attributable to a thick section or associated normal bone marrow proliferation.
CONCLUSIONS: We discuss the importance of high-quality histological and immunohistochemical sections and strict adherence to WHO criteria in the diagnosis of RS. This study further reinforces the importance of centralized review of cases of haematological malignancy.

Chen YA, Wang RC, Yang Y, Chuang SS
Epstein-Barr virus-positive diffuse large B cell lymphoma arising from a chronic lymphocytic leukemia: Overlapping features with classical Hodgkin lymphoma.
Pathol Int. 2016; 66(7):393-397 [PubMed] Related Publications
A small proportion of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) may progress to large cell lymphoma, or Richter syndrome (RS). The large cells of RS may arise through transformation of the original CLL clone (clonally related) or represent a new neoplasm (clonally unrelated), which might be Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated. We present a 61-year-old male with 5-year history of CLL who developed RS on bilateral adrenal glands. The tumor showed a vague nodular growth pattern separated by thick fibrous bands and the tumor cells were large and pleomorphic, with focal sheet-like growth pattern, in a background of small B and T-lymphocytes. The large tumor cells were positive for CD15, CD19, CD20 (intensely and diffusely), CD30, fascin, PAX5, MUM1, OCT2, and LMP-1 by immunohistochemical stains, and EBV by in situ hybridization. The tumor was diagnosed as EBV-positive diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), with overlapping features of classic Hodgkin lymphoma (CHL). The patient received salvage chemotherapy and was free of disease 2 years after adrenalectomy. We speculated that our case was a clonally unrelated tumor with his underlying CLL and discussed the differential diagnoses between EBV-positive DLBCL and CHL in the setting of RS.

Oscier D, Else M, Matutes E, et al.
The morphology of CLL revisited: the clinical significance of prolymphocytes and correlations with prognostic/molecular markers in the LRF CLL4 trial.
Br J Haematol. 2016; 174(5):767-75 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Historically, an increase in the percentage and number of circulating prolymphocytes in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) has been associated with strong expression of surface immunoglobulin, trisomy 12 and a poor outcome. This study re-examines the biological and clinical significance of increased peripheral blood prolymphocytes in 508 patients at entry into the randomized UK Leukaemia Research Fund CLL4 trial. It also investigates the associations between increased prolymphocytes and a comprehensive array of biomarkers. 270 patients (53%) had <5% prolymphocytes, 167 (33%) had 5-9%, 60 (12%) had 10-14% and 11 (2%) had ≥15% prolymphocytes. We show that a higher proportion of prolymphocytes (≥10%) was independently associated with NOTCH1 mutations (P = 0·006), absence of 13q deletion (P = 0·001), high CD38 expression (P = 0·02) and unmutated IGHV genes (P = 0·01). Deaths due to Richter syndrome were significantly more common amongst patients who had ≥10% vs <10% prolymphocytes (13% vs 2%) respectively (P < 0·0001). ≥10% prolymphocytes was also associated with a shorter progression-free survival (Hazard ratio [HR] 1·50 [95% confidence interval [CI]: 1·16-1·93], P = 0·002) and overall survival (HR 1·99 [95% CI: 1·53-2·59], P < 0·0001). Our data support the routine examination of blood films in CLL and suggest that a finding of an increased proportion of prolymphocytes may be a trigger for further evaluation of clinical and laboratory features of progressive disease.

Cheah CY, Spagnolo D, Frost F, Cull G
Synchronous biphenotypic Richter syndrome with Epstein-Barr virus-positive nodal classical Hodgkin lymphoma and bone marrow diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
Histopathology. 2016; 69(4):707-10 [PubMed] Related Publications

Stewart CM, McDonald B, Clifford R, Norris JH
Bilateral acute orbital compartment syndrome secondary to Richter syndrome: the 'tulip' sign.
Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2016; 44(8):722-724 [PubMed] Related Publications

Rossi D, Gaidano G
Richter syndrome: pathogenesis and management.
Semin Oncol. 2016; 43(2):311-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
Richter syndrome (RS) is the development of an aggressive lymphoma in patients with a previous or concomitant diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The incidence rate RS is ~0.5% per year of observation. Two biomarkers (NOTCH1 mutations and subset 8 configuration of the B-cell receptor) may help identifying CLL patients at risk of RS to be considered for close monitoring and a careful biopsy policy. In the presence of clinical features suspicious of RS, diagnosis of transformation and choice of the site of biopsy may take advantage of fluorine 18 fluorodeoxyglucose ((18)FDG) positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT). Molecular lesions of regulators of tumor suppression (TP53), cell cycle (CDKN2A), and cell proliferation (NOTCH1, MYC) overall account for ~90% of RS and may be responsible for the aggressive clinical phenotype observed in this disease because of the combined effect of chemoresistance and rapid disease kinetics. The prognosis of RS is generally highly unfavorable. However, the pattern of survival is not homogeneous and the most important prognostic factor is the clonal relationship between the CLL and the aggressive lymphoma clones. Rituximab-containing polychemotherapy represents the backbone for induction treatment in RS. Younger patients who respond to induction therapy should be offered stem cell transplant (SCT) to prolong survival.

Montgomery ND, Mathews SP
Transformation in Low-grade B-cell Neoplasms.
Surg Pathol Clin. 2016; 9(1):79-92 [PubMed] Related Publications
Low-grade B-cell leukemias/lymphomas are a diverse group of indolent lymphoproliferative disorders that are typically characterized by good patient outcomes and long life expectancies. A subset of cases, however, undergo histologic transformation to a higher-grade neoplasm, a transition associated with a more aggressive clinical course and poor survival. Transformation of follicular lymphoma to diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and Richter transformation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma are best characterized in the literature. This article reviews clinical and pathologic characteristics of these most common forms of transformation, with an emphasis on salient histologic, immunophenotypic, and genetic features.

Vitale C, Ferrajoli A
Richter Syndrome in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.
Curr Hematol Malig Rep. 2016; 11(1):43-51 [PubMed] Related Publications
The term Richter syndrome (RS) indicates the transformation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) into an aggressive lymphoma. RS is a rare complication with an aggressive clinical course, bearing an unfavorable prognosis. In the majority of cases, CLL transforms into RS as diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), and a clonal relation between the two processes can be found. However, clonally unrelated RS can occur and transformations to other histologies beside DLBCL have been described. Recent data have shed some light on genetic characteristics that can influence and drive the transformation from CLL to RS. This molecular information has not been translated yet into significant treatment advances, and currently the therapy regimens for RS continue to rely on intensive chemotherapy combinations followed by stem cell transplant in suitable candidates. Based on the rapid pace of discoveries in the field of hematological malignancies and on the recent revolution in the therapeutic landscape for CLL and B cell lymphomas, new therapeutic options for RS might be available in the upcoming years.

Strati P, Uhm JH, Kaufmann TJ, et al.
Prevalence and characteristics of central nervous system involvement by chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Haematologica. 2016; 101(4):458-65 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Abroad array of conditions can lead to neurological symptoms in chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients and distinguishing between clinically significant involvement of the central nervous system by chronic lymphocytic leukemia and symptoms due to other etiologies can be challenging. Between January 1999 and November 2014, 172 (4%) of the 4174 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia followed at our center had a magnetic resonance imaging of the central nervous system and/or a lumbar puncture to evaluate neurological symptoms. After comprehensive evaluation, the etiology of neurological symptoms was: central nervous system chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 18 patients (10% evaluated by imaging and/or lumbar puncture, 0.4% overall cohort); central nervous system Richter Syndrome in 15 (9% evaluated, 0.3% overall); infection in 40 (23% evaluated, 1% overall); autoimmune/inflammatory conditions in 28 (16% evaluated, 0.7% overall); other cancer in 8 (5% evaluated, 0.2% overall); and another etiology in 63 (37% evaluated, 1.5% overall). Although the sensitivity of cerebrospinal fluid analysis to detect central nervous system disease was 89%, the specificity was only 42% due to the frequent presence of leukemic cells in the cerebrospinal fluid in other conditions. No parameter on cerebrospinal fluid analysis (e.g. total nucleated cells, total lymphocyte count, chronic lymphocytic leukemia cell percentage) were able to offer a reliable discrimination between patients whose neurological symptoms were due to clinically significant central nervous system involvement by chronic lymphocytic leukemia and another etiology. Median overall survival among patients with clinically significant central nervous system chronic lymphocytic leukemia and Richter syndrome was 12 and 11 months, respectively. In conclusion, clinically significant central nervous system involvement by chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a rare condition, and neurological symptoms in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia are due to other etiologies in approximately 80% of cases. Analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid has high sensitivity but limited specificity to distinguish clinically significant chronic lymphocytic leukemia involvement from other etiologies.

Comazzi S, Aresu L, Marconato L
Transformation of Canine Lymphoma/Leukemia to More Aggressive Diseases: Anecdotes or Reality?
Front Vet Sci. 2015; 2:42 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Transformation is the evolution of an indolent lymphoma/leukemia to an aggressive lymphoma, typically harboring a very poor prognosis. This phenomenon is well described in humans, but underestimated in dogs although recognized as a possible evolution of indolent lymphomas/leukemias. In canine chronic leukemias, blast crisis (mainly in myeloid) and Richter syndrome (transformation into a high grade lymphoma) (mainly in B-cell lymphocytic leukemia) have been reported. Transformation is a possible event also in canine low grade lymphomas, although rare. The increased knowledge has also generated new questions and posed challenges that need to be addressed to improve outcome, including the recognition of the clinical characteristics at diagnosis associated with a higher risk of transformation in an attempt of anticipating the typical evolution.

Comazzi S, Martini V, Riondato F, et al.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia transformation into high-grade lymphoma: a description of Richter's syndrome in eight dogs.
Vet Comp Oncol. 2015; [PubMed] Related Publications
Richter's syndrome (RS) is the development of an aggressive lymphoma in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). In humans, RS occurs in 2-20% of CLL, which transform into diffuse large B-cell lymphoma but reports in dogs are scarce. This study retrospectively describes eight dogs with CLL progressing into RS. A database including 153 dogs with CLL (93T CD8+ and 55 B-CLL) was interrogated and RS was demonstrated in eight cases (representing 5.2% of total CLL): two with T-cell (2.2% of T CLL) and six with a B-cell immunophenotype (10.9% of B-CLL). When RS occurred, lymphocytes were decreased compared to CLL. Five dogs had anaemia and two dogs thrombocytopenia. Frequent clinical signs included lymph node swelling, coughing, vomiting, neurological signs and weight loss. Independently from the therapy, RS was associated with a short survival (median 41 days). RS should be considered as an unfavourable evolution in canine CLL.

Michallet AS, Sesques P, Rabe KG, et al.
An 18F-FDG-PET maximum standardized uptake value > 10 represents a novel valid marker for discerning Richter's Syndrome.
Leuk Lymphoma. 2016; 57(6):1474-7 [PubMed] Related Publications

Jain N
New developments in Richter syndrome.
Clin Adv Hematol Oncol. 2015; 13(4):220-2 [PubMed] Related Publications

Lamar Z, Kennedy L, Kennedy B, et al.
Ibrutinib and rituximab induced rapid response in refractory Richter syndrome.
Clin Case Rep. 2015; 3(7):615-7 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
We report a 53-year-old man diagnosed with Richter syndrome. He was heavily pretreated and was refractory to prior therapy. He received rituximab and ibrutinib, and achieved a significant response after 1 month of therapy. Our case illustrates the importance of investigation of rituximab and ibrutinib in Richter's syndrome.

Wang L, Aghel A, Peterson B, et al.
Richter transformation with c-MYC overexpression: report of three cases.
Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2015; 8(6):7540-6 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Pathogenesis of Richter transformation (RT) or Richter syndrome (RS) of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is still largely unknown. Increasing evidences show that c-MYC may play a role in the development of RS. Here we report three cases of RS with overexpression of c-MYC. The first case was a 78-year-old male who initially presented with CLL and then developed diffuse lymphadenopathy and ascites shortly after. Ascites cytology showed a population of large lymphoid cells positive for MYC (8q24) rearrangement by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and overexpression of c-MYC by immunohistochemistry (IHC). The second case was a 66-year-old male presented with rapidly enlarging lymph nodes and pleural effusion after a long history of CLL. Biopsy showed large B-cells positive for c-MYC overexpression and high Ki-67 proliferation index (80-90%). The third case was a 62-year-old female with CLL who presented for lobectomy for lung adenocarcinoma. Interestingly, along with the carcinoma, large B-cell lymphoma was incidentally found which had the same immunophenotype as the CLL. FISH analysis revealed gain of c-MYC at 8q and IHC showed increased c-MYC expression. This study supports that c-MYC plays a critical role in RS.

Chantepie SP, Cabrera Q, Mear JB, et al.
Unusual Extramedullary Plasmacytoma: A Rare but Possible Cause of Lymphadenopathy in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.
Case Rep Med. 2015; 2015:657049 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Cervical bilateral lymphadenopathy is a frequent event during chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) natural history. However, lymph node biopsy is generally not required as long as transformation into an aggressive lymphoma (Richter syndrome) is not suspected. We present here a rare case of CLL patient who developed progressive bilateral cervical lymph node and bilateral tonsillar hypertrophy. CLL front-line therapy was ineffective leading to adenectomy and diagnosis of concomitant extramedullary plasmacytoma. Radiotherapy did not result in the disappearance of lymphadenopathy. Adenectomy should be performed in CLL cases to avoid misdiagnosis.

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