A 71 year old man with a history of multiple myeloma presented with urinary incontinence and confusion and was found to have hyperkalemia with renal failure. Imaging showed extensive inguinal lymphadenopathy with concern for new lymphoma.
Excisional Lymph Node Biopsy
Sections show an enlarged lymph node with complete effacement of the normal lymph node architecture by sheets of medium and large plasmablastic cells. The cells have round nuclear contours, large prominent nucleoli and moderate amounts of amphophilic cytoplasm. Frequent apoptotic cells and scattered mitoses are seen.
Immunohistochemical stains show that the neoplastic cells are immunoreactive for CD138, CD38, CD19 (dim) and MUM1. They are negative for CD20, which highlights only small admixed B-cells. The cells are kappa restricted by kappa and lambda immunostain. The Ki-67 proliferation index is greater than 90%.
Taken together, the morphologic and immunophenotypic features are of a high grade plasmablastic neoplasm. The differential diagnosis includes plasmablastic myeloma and a plasmablastic lymphoma. Given the patient’s history of a kappa restricted plasma cell dyscrasia, plasmablastic myeloma is favored.
Multiple myeloma is a neoplasm of clonal plasma cells that accounts for 10% of all hematologic malignancies. It is most commonly seen in adult and elderly patients with a male predominance. Plasma cells are generally characterized by the presence of a “clockface” nuclei and distinct perinuclear Hof or clearing of the cytoplasm containing a large number of Golgi bodies. The morphology of plasma cell tumors can range from small mature plasma cells to anaplastic or plasmablastic morphology. In this case, the cells showed plasmablastic (PB) morphology, which is characterized by a large nucleus, large nucleolus, fine reticular nuclear chromatin pattern, lack of nuclear Hof and less abundant cytoplasm than typical plasma cells.1
The differential diagnosis for cases with this morphology primarily includes PB lymphoma and PB myeloma with extramedullary involvement. PB lymphoma is seen more commonly in HIV positive patients or patients with other causes of immunodeficiency. It typically occurs in adults and has a male predominance. The tumor generally presents outside of nodes and is most frequently seen in the oral cavity/jaw. Patients tend to present with advanced stage and bone marrow involvement. While PB lymphoma is categorized as a distinct subtype of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, PB myeloma is considered an atypical morphologic variant of multiple myeloma and is treated with therapy geared towards plasma cell neoplasms. 2
Making the distinction between these entities is difficult due to similarities in morphology and immunophenotype. Ultimately, the diagnosis is generally made based on the clinical context. In one series of “plasmablastic” neoplasms by Ahn, et. al., 6 out of 11 cases were called PB lymphoma, 2 out of 11 were called multiple myeloma and 3 were called indeterminate. Among the PB lymphoma patients, 4 were either HIV positive or had a history of immunosuppression. All 6 cases were positive for CD138 and negative for CD20 with EBV in situ hybridization positivity in 3 out of 6 cases. The multiple myeloma cases had evidence of end organ damage without lymphadenopathy. One indeterminate case had peritoneal nodules, lytic lesions and an EBV positive neoplasm in the bone marrow, which precluded a definitive diagnosis. 3
The immunophenotypic pattern seen in this case is typical of these neoplasms and is characterized by the expression of plasma cell antigens (CD138, CD38, MUM1) with either weak or negative expression of B-cell antigens (CD20). A study by Vega et. al. looked at the immunophenotypic profiles in nine cases of PB lymphoma and seven cases of PB myeloma. They found that the profiles were nearly identical. All cases were positive for MUM1/IRF4, CD138 and CD38 and negative for CD20, consistent with a plasma cell immunophenotype. PAX5 and BCL6 were weakly positive in 2/9 and 1/5 PB lymphomas and were negative in all PB myelomas. A high Ki-67, overexpression of P53 and loss of p16 and p27 were present in both tumors. There was no evidence of HHV8 detected in either neoplasm. The presence of EBV-encoded RNA, was seen in all PB lymphoma cases tested and negative in all plasma cell myeloma cases. This was found to be statistically significant. 4
Unfortunately, both PB lymphoma and PB myeloma are aggressive high grade neoplasms with a poor prognosis. A study conducted by Greipp et. al. assessed the prognostic significance of plasmablastic morphology in a cohort of patients from the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Myeloma Trial E9486. They looked at bone marrow aspirates from 453 newly diagnosed multiple myeloma cases in a 5 year period. Of the 453 aspirates, 8.2% were classified as PB morphology. The overall survival of patients with PB morphology was significantly shorter than patients with non-PB morphology with a median of 1.9 years compared to 3.7 years. There did not appear to be a relationship between PB morphology to other clinical or laboratory features such as age, sex, bone lesions or type of M-protein. 5
- M Srija, P Zachariah, V Unni, et. al. Plasmablastic myeloma presenting as rapidly progressive renal failure in a young adult, Indian Journal of Nephrology, Volume 24(1): 2014, Page 41-44.
- JJ Castillo, M Bibas, RN Miranda, The biology and treatment of plasmablastic lymphoma, Blood, Volume 125, 2015, Page 2323-2330.
- J Ahn, R Okal, J Vos, et. al. Plasmablastic Lymphoma vs Myeloma With Plasmablastic Morphology: An Ongoing Diagnostic Dilemma, American Journal of Clinical Pathology, Volume 144(2): 2015, Page A125.
- F Vega, CC Chang, LJ Medeiros, et. al. Plasmablastic lymphomas and plasmablastic plasma cell myelomas have nearly identical immunophenotypic profiles. Modern Pathology, Volume 18: 2005, Page 806-815.
- PR Greipp, T Leong, J Bennett, et. al. Plasmablastic Morphology – An Independent Prognostic Factor With Clinical and Laboratory Correlates: Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Myeloma Trial 39486 Report by the ECOG Myeloma Laboratory Group, Blood, Volume 91: 1998, Page 2501-2507.
–Chelsea Marcus, MD is a Hematopathology Fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. She has a particular interest in High-grade B-Cell lymphomas and the genetic alterations of these lymphomas.