Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is characterized by a marked degree of morphologic and clinical heterogeneity. Establishment of parameters that can predict outcome could help to identify patients who may benefit from risk-adjusted therapies. BCL-6 is a proto-oncogene commonly implicated in DLBCL pathogenesis. A real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction assay was established for accurate and reproducible determination of BCL-6 mRNA expression. The method was applied to evaluate the prognostic significance of BCL-6 expression in DLBCL. BCL-6 mRNA expression was assessed in tumor specimens obtained at the time of diagnosis from 22 patients with primary DLBCL. All patients were subsequently treated with anthracycline-based chemotherapy regimens. These patients could be divided into 2 DLBCL subgroups, one with high BCL-6 gene expression whose median overall survival (OS) time was 171 months and the other with low BCL-6 gene expression whose median OS was 24 months (P = .007). BCL-6 gene expression also predicted OS in an independent validation set of 39 patients with primary DLBCL (P = .01). BCL-6 protein expression, assessed by immunohistochemistry, also predicted longer OS in patients with DLBCL. BCL-6 gene expression was an independent survival predicting factor in multivariate analysis together with the elements of the International Prognostic Index (IPI) (P = .038). By contrast, the aggregate IPI score did not add further prognostic information to the patients' stratification by BCL-6 gene expression. High BCL-6 mRNA expression should be considered a new favorable prognostic factor in DLBCL and should be used in the stratification and the design of risk-adjusted therapies for patients with DLBCL.
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