Genetic evolution of in situ follicular neoplasia to aggressive B-cell lymphoma of germinal center subtype.

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In situ follicular neoplasia (ISFN) is the earliest morphologically identifiable precursor of follicular lymphoma (FL). Although it is genetically less complex than FL and has low risk for progression, ISFN already harbors secondary genetic alterations, in addition to the defining t(14;18)(q32;q21) translocation. FL, in turn, frequently progresses to diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) or high-grade B-cell lymphoma (HGBL). By BCL2 staining of available reactive lymphoid tissue obtained at any time point in patients with aggressive B-cell lymphoma (BCL), we identified 10 paired cases of ISFN and DLBCL/HGBL, including 6 de novo tumors and 4 transformed from FL as intermediate step, and investigated their clonal evolution using microdissection and next generation sequencing. A clonal relationship between ISFN and aggressive BCL was established by immunoglobulin and/or BCL2 rearrangements and/or the demonstration of shared somatic mutations for all 10 cases. Targeted sequencing revealed CREBBP, KMT2D, EZH2, TNFRSF14 and BCL2 as the genes most frequently mutated already in ISFN. Based on the distribution of private and shared mutations, two patterns of clonal evolution were evident. In most cases, the aggressive lymphoma, ISFN and, when present, FL revealed divergent evolution from a common progenitor, whereas linear evolution with sequential accumulation of mutations was less frequent. In conclusion, we demonstrate for the first time that t(14;18)+ aggressive BCL can arise from ISFN without clinically evident FL as intermediate step and that during this progression, branched evolution is common.

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