Lymphoma: Crucial CD Markers in the Diagnosis of Lymphoma

Lymphoma can be examined physically at first

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Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system, particularly in the lymph nodes. It can then spread to many other parts of the body. The lymphoma target the B cells and the T cells.

These cells will abnormally proliferate (multiply) and start forming solid tumors in the lymphatic system. It’s important to note that those are the two types of cells that make up the entire adaptive immune system.

Vital Analogy

If you wanted to defeat an army or a militia group, you need to target and kill their leaders. The T cells and the B cells are like commanders in the immune system. T cells particularly, the T helper cells provide help to other immune cells to perform their functions – they are ‘leaders’ here.

The B cells on the other hand are the only cells that produce antibodies in the body. Antibodies coordinate very many effector functions of immune cells – they are also leaders in that sense here.

Therefore, the lymphoma literary collapse the immune system by targeting these immune cells the same way you would target leaders of a militia to disorient the criminal group completely.  

There are two types of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Knowing which type of lymphoma, the patient is suffering from can help inform what treatment they should be given.

Let’s now discuss the two types of lymphoma:

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (HL)

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer of the lymphocytes (Type of white blood cells). This type of lymphoma is distinguished from other types by the presence of Reed Sternberg cells. This type of lymphoma accounts for a frequency of about 10% of all types of lymphoma. It is not as difficult to treat as Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. 

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL)

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the lymphatic system and spreads to other parts of the body once established. The lymphatic system is similar to the blood system and runs throughout the body carrying lymphocytes. The lymphatic system drains into the lymph nodes.

There are about 60 types of lymphoma under this category of NHL and they together account for about 90% of all lymphoma.

CD markers in Diagnosis of lymphoma

The cluster of differentiation markers popularly known as CD markers are surface proteins found in most white blood cells. They indicate different developmental stages of immune cells. The CD markers have been found very important in differentiating types of blood cell cancers especially when cells resemble under the microscope.

The CD markers have also proven to be of value when it comes to treatment because scientists produce monoclonal antibodies that block them. Once blocked the phagocytic cells of the innate immune system that possess Fc receptors of the bound monoclonal antibodies rapidly engulf and destroy the lymphoma. These blockades have been found to improve the treatment outcomes of patients.

Let’s now have a closer look at the different CD markers:

CD20 in B cell Lymphoma

CD20 which is a maker that characterizes nearly all stages of B cell development has proven to be of diagnostic value. Since there exists both B cell and T cell lymphoma, it is important to distinguish them with precision.

However, differentiating the Diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) which is T cell lymphoma under a microscope can be a daunting task.

The two types of lymphoma have a striking resemblance. But since CD20 is a marker found on B cells and not on T cells, it can be useful to differentiate them using immunohistochemistry or flow cytometry. The density of the CD20 on the B cell lymphoma can also be determined.


Another marker which is called CD30 can also be used to identify Anaplastic large cell lymphoma because it is its signature marker. Having a unique marker on a type of lymphoma is the most exciting thing to scientists because it makes the identification of such a simple affair.


Another marker is CD5. This marker has proven to be valuable in the diagnosis of B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders (LPD). For instance, this marker is overexpressed in chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and, though not unique to this type of cancer can give a strong indication.


CD23 is also vital in distinguishing chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) from MALT lymphoma. In this case, CLL is CD23+ while MALT lymphoma is CD23-. And that is simply how you can distinguish the two.


The overexpression of CD19 which is a normal CD marker in the normal development of B cells may be indicative of B cell lymphoma or a sign of autoimmunity. Therefore, CD19 overexpression on developing B cells raises alarm and hence the need for a closer look to understand why.


Another marker called CD7 has been found to be greatly reduced when cutaneous T cell lymphoma is present. Research has determined that this is the first CD marker that loses expression in this type of T cell lymphoma. Such an observation serves as a diagnostic tool.


There are two types of lymphoma. These are Hodgkin’s (HL) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The NHL starts from the lymphatic system, is more widespread, and is much more difficult to treat. There are different types of CD markers that serve as diagnostic tools as well as targets for therapy.  

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