Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version
Stage Information for Adult NHL
Stage is important in selecting a treatment for patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Chest and abdominal computed tomography (CT) scans are usually part of the staging evaluation for all lymphoma patients. The staging system is similar to the staging system used for Hodgkin lymphoma (HL).
Common among patients with NHL is involvement of the following:
Noncontiguous lymph nodes.
Extranodal presentations. (A single extranodal site is occasionally the only site of involvement in patients with diffuse lymphoma.)
Liver (especially common in patients with low-grade lymphomas).
Cytologic examination of cerebrospinal fluid may be positive in patients with aggressive NHL. Involvement of hilar and mediastinal lymph nodes is less common than in HL. Mediastinal adenopathy, however, is a prominent feature of lymphoblastic lymphoma and primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma, entities primarily found in young adults.
The majority of patients with NHL present with advanced (stage III or stage IV) disease that can often be identified with limited staging procedures such as CT scanning and biopsies of the bone marrow and other accessible sites of involvement. Laparoscopic biopsy or laparotomy is not required for staging but may be necessary to establish a diagnosis or histologic type. Positron emission tomography (PET) with fluorine F 18-fludeoxyglucose can be used for initial staging and for follow-up after therapy as a supplement to CT scanning. Interim PET scans after two to four cycles of therapy did not provide reliable prognostic information because of problems of interobserver reproducibility in a large cooperative group trial (ECOG-E344 [NCT00274924]) and lack of difference in outcome between PET-negative and PET-positive/biopsy-negative patients in two prospective trials [3-5] and in a meta-analysis. For patients with follicular lymphoma, a positive PET result after therapy has a worse prognosis; however, it is unclear whether a positive PET result is predictive when further or different therapy is implemented.
In a retrospective study of 130 patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, PET scanning identified all clinically important marrow involvement from lymphoma, and bone marrow biopsy did not upstage any patient. Bone marrow biopsies are required for some clinical trials and when the identification of marrow involvement would change the therapeutic plan.
Staging Subclassification System
The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) has adopted the Lugano classification to evaluate and stage lymphoma. The Lugano classification system replaces the Ann Arbor classification system, which was adopted in 1971 at the Ann Arbor Conference, with some modifications 18 years later from the Cotswolds meeting.[11,12]
Table 1. Lugano Classification for Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphomaa
CSF = cerebrospinal fluid; CT = computed tomography; DLBCL = diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; NHL = non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
aHodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas. In: Amin MB, Edge SB, Greene FL, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 8th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2017, pp. 937–58.
bStage II bulky may be considered either early or advanced stage based on lymphoma histology and prognostic factors.
cThe definition of disease bulk varies according to lymphoma histology. In the Lugano classification, bulk ln Hodgkin lymphoma is defined as a mass greater than one-third of the thoracic diameter on CT of the chest or a mass >10 cm. For NHL, the recommended definitions of bulk vary by lymphoma histology. In follicular lymphoma, 6 cm has been suggested based on the Follicular Lymphoma International Prognostic Index-2 and its validation. In DLBCL, cutoffs ranging from 5 cm to 10 cm have been used, although 10 cm is recommended.
Involvement of a single lymphatic site (i.e., nodal region, Waldeyer’s ring, thymus, or spleen).
Single extralymphatic site in the absence of nodal involvement (rare in Hodgkin lymphoma).
Involvement of two or more lymph node regions on the same side of the diaphragm.
Contiguous extralymphatic extension from a nodal site with or without involvement of other lymph node regions on the same side of the diaphragm.
Stage II with disease bulk.c
Involvement of lymph node regions on both sides of the diaphragm; nodes above the diaphragm with spleen involvement.
Diffuse or disseminated involvement of one or more extralymphatic organs, with or without associated lymph node involvement; or noncontiguous extralymphatic organ involvement in conjunction with nodal stage II disease; or any extralymphatic organ involvement in nodal stage III disease. Stage IV includes any involvement of the CSF, bone marrow, liver, or multiple lung lesions (other than by direct extension in stage IIE disease).
Note: Hodgkin lymphoma uses A or B designation with stage group. A/B is no longer used in NHL.
Occasionally, specialized staging systems are used. The physician should be aware of the system used in a specific report.
The E designation is used when extranodal lymphoid malignancies arise in tissues separate from, but near, the major lymphatic aggregates. Stage IV refers to disease that is diffusely spread throughout an extranodal site, such as the liver. If pathologic proof of involvement of one or more extralymphatic sites has been documented, the symbol for the site of involvement, followed by a plus sign (+), is listed.
Table 2. Notation to Identify Specific Sites
N = nodes
H = liver
L = lung
M = bone marrow
S = spleen
P = pleura
O = bone
D = skin
Current practice assigns a clinical stage based on the findings of the clinical evaluation and a pathologic stage based on the findings made as a result of invasive procedures beyond the initial biopsy.
For example, on percutaneous biopsy, a patient with inguinal adenopathy and a positive lymphangiogram without systemic symptoms might be found to have involvement of the liver and bone marrow. The precise stage of such a patient would be clinical stage IIA, pathologic stage IVA(H+)(M+).
A number of other factors that are not included in the above staging system are important for the staging and prognosis of patients with NHL. These factors include the following:
Performance status (PS).
Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) values.
The number of extranodal sites.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network International Prognostic Index (IPI) for aggressive NHL (diffuse large cell lymphoma) identifies five significant risk factors prognostic of OS:
Low intermediate (2 or 3): 5-year OS, 82%; PFS, 74%.
High intermediate (4 or 5): 5-year OS, 64%; PFS, 51%.
High (>6): 5-year OS 33%; PFS, 30%.
Age-adjusted and stage-adjusted modifications of this IPI are used for younger patients with localized disease. Shorter intervals of time between diagnosis and treatment appear to be a surrogate for poor prognostic biologic factors.
The BCL2 gene and rearrangement of the MYC gene or dual overexpression of the MYCgene, or both, confer a particularly poor prognosis.[16,17] Patients at high risk of relapse may benefit from consolidation therapy or other approaches under clinical evaluation. Molecular profiles of gene expression using DNA microarrays may help to stratify patients in the future for therapies directed at specific targets and to better predict survival after standard chemotherapy.[19-21]
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Moskowitz CH, Schöder H, Teruya-Feldstein J, et al.: Risk-adapted dose-dense immunochemotherapy determined by interim FDG-PET in Advanced-stage diffuse large B-Cell lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 28 (11): 1896-903, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
Pregno P, Chiappella A, Bellò M, et al.: Interim 18-FDG-PET/CT failed to predict the outcome in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma patients treated at the diagnosis with rituximab-CHOP. Blood 119 (9): 2066-73, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
Sun N, Zhao J, Qiao W, et al.: Predictive value of interim PET/CT in DLBCL treated with R-CHOP: meta-analysis. Biomed Res Int 2015: 648572, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
Pyo J, Won Kim K, Jacene HA, et al.: End-therapy positron emission tomography for treatment response assessment in follicular lymphoma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Cancer Res 19 (23): 6566-77, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
Khan AB, Barrington SF, Mikhaeel NG, et al.: PET-CT staging of DLBCL accurately identifies and provides new insight into the clinical significance of bone marrow involvement. Blood 122 (1): 61-7, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In: Amin MB, Edge SB, Greene FL, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 8th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2017, pp. 937–58.
Carbone PP, Kaplan HS, Musshoff K, et al.: Report of the Committee on Hodgkin's Disease Staging Classification. Cancer Res 31 (11): 1860-1, 1971. [PUBMED Abstract]
Lister TA, Crowther D, Sutcliffe SB, et al.: Report of a committee convened to discuss the evaluation and staging of patients with Hodgkin's disease: Cotswolds meeting. J Clin Oncol 7 (11): 1630-6, 1989. [PUBMED Abstract]
National Cancer Institute sponsored study of classifications of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas: summary and description of a working formulation for clinical usage. The Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Pathologic Classification Project. Cancer 49 (10): 2112-35, 1982. [PUBMED Abstract]
Zhou Z, Sehn LH, Rademaker AW, et al.: An enhanced International Prognostic Index (NCCN-IPI) for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma treated in the rituximab era. Blood 123 (6): 837-42, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
Møller MB, Christensen BE, Pedersen NT: Prognosis of localized diffuse large B-cell lymphoma in younger patients. Cancer 98 (3): 516-21, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
Maurer MJ, Ghesquières H, Link BK, et al.: Diagnosis-to-Treatment Interval Is an Important Clinical Factor in Newly Diagnosed Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma and Has Implication for Bias in Clinical Trials. J Clin Oncol 36 (16): 1603-1610, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
Scott DW, King RL, Staiger AM, et al.: High-grade B-cell lymphoma with MYC and BCL2 and/or BCL6 rearrangements with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma morphology. Blood 131 (18): 2060-2064, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
Horn H, Ziepert M, Becher C, et al.: MYC status in concert with BCL2 and BCL6 expression predicts outcome in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Blood 121 (12): 2253-63, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
A predictive model for aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The International Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Prognostic Factors Project. N Engl J Med 329 (14): 987-94, 1993. [PUBMED Abstract]
Rosenwald A, Wright G, Chan WC, et al.: The use of molecular profiling to predict survival after chemotherapy for diffuse large-B-cell lymphoma. N Engl J Med 346 (25): 1937-47, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
Abramson JS, Shipp MA: Advances in the biology and therapy of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: moving toward a molecularly targeted approach. Blood 106 (4): 1164-74, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
Schmitz R, Wright GW, Huang DW, et al.: Genetics and Pathogenesis of Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma. N Engl J Med 378 (15): 1396-1407, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
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