Ten patients with follicular lymphoma presented with a high white cell count (45-220 x 10(9)/l) which resembled chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CCL): all had pronounced splenomegaly and, except one, generalised lymphadenopathy. The blood lymphocytes were small with scanty cytoplasm, densely condensed nuclear chromatin, and deep clefts originating in sharp angles from the nuclear surface. CLL cells are larger, have more cytoplasm, a different pattern of chromatin condensation, and may have shallow nuclear indentations or foldings rather than clefts. The circulating follicular lymphoma cells had moderate to strong membrane immunoglobulins (SmIg), low mouse (M)-rosettes, strong reactivity with the monoclonal antibody FMC7, and occasional expression of the CD5-antigen; at least one third of cells in each case were positive with anti-cALLa (J5,CD10). Half the cases were referred as B-CLL but none had the typical B-CLL immunophenotype: weak SmIg, M-rosettes of greater than 50%, CD5 positive, FMC7 and J5 negative. The diagnosis of follicular lymphoma was confirmed by lymph node biopsy in seven of the 10 cases. The overall response to treatment was poor and five patients died within three years of diagnosis. This aggressive form of follicular lymphoma needs to be distinguished from B-CLL as different management is required.
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