Lymphoma classification is based on a multiparametric approach to diagnosis, in which clinical features, morphology, immunophenotype, karyotype and molecular characteristics are important to varying degrees. While in most cases, a diagnosis can be confidently established on the basis of morphology and immunophenotype alone, a small proportion of diagnostically difficult cases will rely on molecular studies to enable a definitive diagnosis. This review discusses the various molecular techniques available including Southern blotting (SB), polymerase chain reaction (PCR), fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) - including multicolour-FISH/spectral karyotyping and comparative genomic hybridisation - and also gene expression profiling using cDNA microarray technology. Emphasis is given to the analysis of antigen receptor gene rearrangements and chromosomal translocations as they relate to lymphoma diagnosis and also in the setting of minimal residual disease (MRD) detection and monitoring. Laboratories performing these tests need to have expertise in these areas of testing, and there is a need for greater standardisation of molecular tests. It is important to know the sensitivity and specificity of each test as well as its limitations and the pitfalls in the interpretation of results. Above all, results of molecular testing should never be considered in isolation, and must always be interpreted in the context of clinical and other laboratory data.
- DNA microarrays
- Fluorescence in situ hybridisation
- Minimal residual disease
- Polymerase chain reaction
- Southern blotting