Mantle cell lymphoma with chronic lymphocytic leukemia-like features: a diagnostic mimic and pitfall

Lianqun Qiu, Jie Xu, Guilin Tang, Sa A. Wang, Pei Lin, Chi Young Ok, Sophia Garces, C. Cameron Yin, Mahsa Khanlari, Francisco Vega, L. Jeffrey Medeiros, Shaoying Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a mature B-cell neoplasm characterized by t(11;14) (q13;q32) and cyclin D1 overexpression in >95% of cases. Classic MCL cases are composed of a monotonous population of small- to medium-sized lymphocytes with irregular nuclear contours that are positive for cyclin D1 and SOX11 and negative for CD23 and CD200. By contrast, occasional MCL cases express CD23 and CD200 but lack SOX11 and morphologically and immunophenotypically resemble chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), termed as CLL-like MCL in this study. These neoplasms pose a diagnostic challenge and are easy to be diagnosed as CLL in daily practice. We studied 14 cases of CLL-like MCL to define their clinicopathologic features and compared them with 33 traditional CLL cases. There were 8 men and 6 women with a median age of 62 years (range, 44–80). Compared with CLL, patients with CLL-like MCL have lower levels of peripheral blood and bone marrow involvement and more frequently had mutated IGHV. Immunophenotypically, CLL-like MCL often showed moderate to bright expression of B-cell antigens and surface immunoglobulin light chain, dim and partial expression of CD23 and CD200, infrequent CD43 positivity, and lack of LEF1. The overall survival of patients with CLL-like MCL was similar to that of CLL patients. In conclusion, CD23+, CD200+, and SOX11-negative MCL closely resemble CLL, both clinically and pathologically, including a similar indolent clinical course. They may pose a diagnostic challenge. However, patients with CLL-like MCL also have distinctive immunophenotypic features that are useful to distinguish these neoplasms from CLL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalHuman pathology
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • CD200
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL)
  • Flow cytometry
  • Immunophenotypic variant
  • Mantle cell lymphoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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