In early-stage cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), malignant T cells are confined to skin and are difficult to isolate and discriminate from benign reactive cells. We found that T cells from CTCL skin lesions contained a population of large, high-scatter, activated skin homing T cells not observed in other inflammatory skin diseases. High-scatter T (THS) cells were CD4 + in CD4+ mycosis fungoides (MF), CD8+ in CD8+ MF, and contained only clonal T cells in patients with identifiable malignant Vβ clones. THS cells were present in the blood of patients with leukemic CTCL, absent in patients without blood involvement, and contained only clonal malignant T cells. The presence of clonal THS cells correlated with skin disease in patients followed longitudinally. Clonal THS cells underwent apoptosis in patients clearing on extracorporeal photopheresis but persisted in nonresponsive patients. Benign clonal T-cell proliferations mapped to the normal low-scatter T-cell population. Thus, the malignant T cells in both MF and leukemic CTCL can be conclusively identified by a unique scatter profile. This observation will allow selective study of malignant T cells, can be used to discriminate patients with MF from patients with other inflammatory skin diseases, to detect peripheral blood involvement, and to monitor responses to therapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology