The distinction between chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL) with isolated Hodgkin/Reed–Sternberg cells (CLL-HRS; background milieu with a paucity of inflammatory cells) and overt transformation to classic Hodgkin lymphoma (CLL-HL; mixed inflammatory background) is incompletely understood. This retrospective study examined the clinicopathologic features of CLL-HRS (n = 15) and CLL-HL (n = 31) patients seen over the past three decades from a single institution. The phenotypic features of Reed–Sternberg cells in both groups were similar, including expression of CD30, CD15, and PAX5, as well as EBV status. However, a spectrum of background CLL/SLL infiltration amongst the HRS cells was noted on pathologic review, and four patients had both diagnoses, either concurrently or in succession. The median overall survival (OS) of patients with CLL-HRS was 17.5 months compared to 33.5 months for patients with CLL-HL (P = 0.24). Among patients with CLL-HRS, those who received Hodgkin-directed therapy had a significantly longer median OS (57 months) compared to those who received CLL-directed therapy (8.4 months, P = 0.02). Our clinical and pathologic findings suggest a biologic continuum between CLL-HRS and CLL-HL and indicate that CLL-HRS patients may benefit from Hodgkin-directed therapy.
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