Cutaneous presentation of ALK-positive anaplastic large cell lymphoma following insect bites: Evidence for an association in five cases

Laurence Lamant, Stefano Pileri, Elena Sabattini, Laurence Brugières, Elaine S. Jaffe, Georges Delsol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Skin involvement is frequent in ALK-positive anaplastic large cell lymphomas. The role of an insect bite as a triggering event has been postulated but not well documented. Design and Methods: We retrospectively investigated five cases of ALK-positive anaplastic large cell lymphoma who presented with skin lesions occurring after an insect bite. Biopsies were immunostained with antibodies against CD30, ALK, T- and B-cell antigens. Results: Persistent skin lesions developed after solitary insect bites in three patients and after multiple bites in two. Regional lymphadenopathy developed within weeks after the bite in three cases. In four cases the correct diagnosis was delayed due to misinterpretation of the findings as a reactive infiltrate in the skin (n=2) or lymph nodes (n=2); all cases subsequently showed small numbers of cells with nuclear and cytoplasmic staining for ALK. The final diagnoses were lymphohistiocytic variant (n=3) and composite common/small cell type (n=2) anaplastic large cell lymphoma. The patients were treated and three were alive at the last follow-up. Two patients died, one of pneumonia and the other of disseminated disease. Conclusions: In these cases the sequence of events between the insect bites and the occurrence of both skin lesions and satellite lymphadenopathy suggest a direct relationship between the bite and the presentation with anaplastic large cell lymphoma. We postulate that insect bite-associated antigens could result in an influx of T lymphocytes, some bearing the t(2;5). The subsequent release of cytokines at the site of the bite could act as a 'second hit', eliciting activation of the latter cells, which would then express the oncogenic NPM-ALK protein and undergo uncontrolled proliferation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-455
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • ALK-positive ALCL
  • Skin involvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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