Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery
Print this page
Email this page
Small font size
Default font size
Increase font size
Home About us Current issue Archives Instructions Submission Subscribe Editorial Board Partners Contact e-Alerts Login 

CASE REPORT Table of Contents   
Year : 2009  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 97-100
Primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma arising from lymphomatoid papulosis, responding to low dose methotrexate

1 Venkat Charmalaya, Centre for Advanced Dermatology, Bangalore, India
2 Department of Dermatology, Bangalore Medical College and Research Centre and Registrar, Rajeev Gandhi University for Health Sciences, Bangalore, India
3 Department of Dermatology, Manipal Hospital, Bangalore, India

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Web Publication24-Dec-2009


CD301 cutaneous lymphoproliferative disorders (CLPDs) present variable clinical and histological manifestations. We report here a case of an adult male patient who progressed from lymphomatoid papulosis to anaplastic large cell lymphoma. The patient responded satisfactorily to a low dose of methotrexate.

Keywords: Anaplastic large cell lymphoma, cutaneous lymphoproliferative disorders, lymphomatoid papulosis, methotrexate

How to cite this article:
Nandini A S, Mysore V, Sacchidanand S, Chandra S. Primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma arising from lymphomatoid papulosis, responding to low dose methotrexate. J Cutan Aesthet Surg 2009;2:97-100

How to cite this URL:
Nandini A S, Mysore V, Sacchidanand S, Chandra S. Primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma arising from lymphomatoid papulosis, responding to low dose methotrexate. J Cutan Aesthet Surg [serial online] 2009 [cited 2022 Jul 1];2:97-100. Available from:

   Introduction Top

The spectrum of CD30+ lymphoproliferative disorders of the skin includes CD30+ cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), lymphomatoid papulosis (LyP), and other miscellaneous entities. [1] Clinically, both LyP and ALCL present with varied manifestations, leading to difficulty in diagnosis. LyP has been known to progress to ALCL [2],[3] and its diagnosis needs immunomarker studies. The case reported here is notable for its initial presentation with spontaneously remitting lesions, followed later, however, by the lesions becoming persistent. CD30 stain confirmed the diagnosis and the lesions resolved satisfactorily with low dose methotrexate.

   Case Report Top

A 52 years-old male patient presented with multiple, asymptomatic lesions of 2 years' duration all over the body. These lesions were solid, elevated, red in color, and of varying sizes. They had initially started over the extremities and had gradually progressed to involve the chest, back, and abdomen. The lesions tended to heal spontaneously over a period of 15 to 20 days but, would recur at same or different places. The patient also had a history of blood-stained, watery discharge from a few lesions on the right arm and the left leg. The left leg lesion had ulcerated which had led to an initial clinical diagnosis of pyoderma gangrenosum. A skin biopsy, at that time, was reported as showing a predominantly diffuse, mixed, inflammatory infiltrate without any specific diagnosis. The patient had been treated with dapsone and oral steroids.

Two months before the visit, patient had noticed a change in the behavior of lesions. There was a fresh crop of firm lesions over the back that was persistent. There was no history of weight loss, generalized weakness, bleeding tendency, fever or recurrent infections and the patient was not a known diabetic or hypertensive.

Clinical examination revealed lesions distributed all over the body, but predominantly over the extremities, back, chest, and abdomen [Figure 1]. The palms, soles, face, scalp, oral cavity, and genitalia were spared. The lesions consisted of red to red-brown papules, nodules, plaques, and ulcerated plaques [Figure 2] with crusting. There were many resolved lesions on the extremities that showed hyperpigmentation and scarring [Figure 3] and [Figure 4]. Systemic physical examination results were not remarkable.

The previous skin biopsy slides when reviewed by a dermatopathologist (the second author of this paper) showed a mixed cellular infiltrate in the upper and mid dermis with extravasation of RBCs and focal epidermal necrosis. The infiltrate consisted of polymorphonuclear cells, lymphocytes, plasma cells, and occasional atypical cells with large nuclei. Correlating the histological features with the clinical picture at this stage, provisional differential diagnoses of lymphomatoid papulosis and cutaneous T cell lymphoma were considered.

Fresh skin biopsies were performed from multiple sites and showed dense, monomorphous, mononuclear infiltrate throughout the dermis, extending into the subcutis [Figure 5]. Many cells were large (20 microns) and had large atypical nuclei [Figure 6]. Atypical mitotic figures were seen; the epidermis was normal. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that cells expressed CD30 [Figure 7] and were negative for EMA [Figure 8]. Background lymphocytes expressed CD3 and CD20, features that were consistent with anaplastic large cell Lymphoma, possibly of T cell lineage.

A complete hemogram including peripheral smear, biochemical and serological tests showed no abnormalities. A chest X-ray and CT scan of the abdomen, chest, and pelvis showed no systemic or nodal involvement. The absence of any systemic lesions confirmed the diagnosis of primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma without systemic involvement.

Our patient was started on a low dose (7.5 mg/week) of methotrexate. He responded dramatically and the lesions subsided completely within two months of initiating treatment [Figure 9]. He has been under follow-up for over nine months without any relapse.

   Discussion Top

This case presents interesting chronological changes in morphology and histology. The earlier clinical picture of recurrent, self-healing lesions lasting for two years, and the initial histological picture of mixed infiltrate, large atypical cells, extravasated RBCS, all suggest a diagnosis of lymphomatoid papulosis (LyP) for this stage of the disease process. The subsequent change in behavior of lesions occurring two months ago to indolent and persistent lesions and dense, monomorphic infiltrate with large atypical cells staining positively with CD30, suggests a transformation to CD30+ anaplastic lymphoma. The absence of systemic lesions confirmed its primary cutaneous onset. Thus, the final diagnosis of the patient was CD30 positive primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma (PCALCL) arising in previous LyP.

The group CD30+ cutaneous lymphoproliferative disorders (CLPDs) includes a spectrum of disorders such as lymphomatoid papulosis, borderline cases of CD30+ CLPDs, and primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma (PCALCL). [1] These entities constitute the second most common group of cutaneous lymphomas, after mycosis fungoides, according to the newly revised WHO and EORTC Consensus classification. [1] Clinically, both lymphomatoid papulosis and ALCL present with variable manifestations and therefore, cause difficulty in diagnosis. Furthermore, LyP has been known to progress to ALCL [3] so that the distinction of LyP from PCALCL may not be possible in all cases. The initial diagnosis is often difficult and lesions may be confused for various inflammatory conditions, as in our case. [4]

Primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma is a rare anaplastic CD30+ large T-cell lymphoma originating and usually confined to the skin, characterized by solitary or locoregional occurrence of reddish or brownish nodules and tumors, with a tendency to ulcerate. [2] Progression to extracutaneous sites is rare, but has been reported in about 10% of the cases. [5] PCALCL has a favourable prognosis with a disease-related survival rate of around 90%. [5]

'Lymphomatoid papulosis' describes a 'self-healing rhythmical paradoxical papular eruption histologically appearing "malignant", but having a relatively benign clinical behaviour'. [5] The primary lesion typically is an erythematous, papule or nodule that spontaneously regresses over few weeks with scaling, crusting, ulceration, and possible scarring with atrophy, hyperpigmentation, or both. Lesions often present as crops or generalized eruptions. Overall, the clinical course resolves over a span of 10-20 years although frequent relapses are the norm. It has a benign clinical course with a 10-year survival rate of nearly 100%. [5],[6] Some (10-20%) of the cases are associated with malignant lymphoma including mycosis fungoides, PCALCL, and Hodgkin's disease. [6]

Histologically, LyP and ALCL may be difficult to distinguish, and clinicopathological correlation is often necessary to establish a diagnosis. [6] This was indeed so in our case.

Therapies shown to be effective in the treatment of LyP include excision, topical corticosteroids, topical mechlorethamine, oral antibiotics, phototherapy, low-dose methotrexate, interferon α, and systemic retinoids including bexarotene. [6] Treatment of PCALCL should always be tailored to the extent and severity of cutaneous involvement. Systemic agents may be appropriate for generalized PCALCL, and the main categories of therapies include chemotherapy and biological therapies such as interferon or oral bexarotene.[6] Only in patients with extracutaneous disease or systemic lymphoma is systemic chemotherapy (like CHOP regimen) indicated. For localized disease, excision (if the extent of disease is limited) and local radiation (for greater tumor burden) are the two most common forms of treatment. Several local treatments have been reported to be successful in patients with limited disease. These include a 308nm excimer laser in the case of a solitary cutaneous CD30+ lymphoproliferative nodule [7] and intralesional methotrexate in a case of PCALCL. [8] The nodules within the plaque were injected with a total of 0.5mL of methotrexate (25 mg/mL) followed by one additional treatment of 0.4mL of methotrexate (25 mg/mL) a week later. The treated area had dramatically flattened one week after the second treatment. [8] A case report discusses two patients with non-regressing primary cutaneous CD30+ T -cell lymphoma that was successfully treated with topical imiquimod 5% cream (Aldara, 3M) three times weekly for six weeks. [9]

Low-dose methotrexate has also been advocated in patients with disease limited to the skin. [3] In our case, low-dose methotrexate with 7.5 mg weekly oral administration has proved to be successful in inducing remission, without any adverse effects.

   Conclusion Top

Our case is notable for the progression of LyP to ALCL. The morphology and the progression of lesions were found to change with time. The case is also notable for the good response to a simple treatment with methotrexate.

The case underscores the need for proper clinico- pathological correlation, the importance of immuno- histochemistry, and the need for regular follow-up and repeated biopsies for proper diagnosis and management.

   References Top

1.Querfeld C, Kuzel TM, Guitart J, Rosen ST. Primary cutaneous CD301 lymphoproliferative disorders: New insights into biology and therapy. Oncology (Williston Park) 2007;21:689-96.  Back to cited text no. 1      
2.Asaff C, Srerry W. Cutaneous lymphoma. In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, Gilchrest BA, Paller AS, Leffell DJ, editors. Fitzpatrick's dermatology in general medicine. USA: McGraw Hill; 2008. p. 1386-402.  Back to cited text no. 2      
3.Demierre MD, Goldberg LJ, Kadin ME, Koh HK. Is it lymphoma or lymphomatoid papulosis? J Am Acad Dermatol 1997;36:765-72.  Back to cited text no. 3      
4.Venkataram M, Rudriah BS, Damodhar BD, Raouf AS. Ki-1 anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Int J Dermatol 1996;35:583-4.  Back to cited text no. 4      
5.Whittaker SJ, Mackie RM. Cutaneous lymphomas and lymphocytic infiltrates. In: Burns T, Breathnach S, Cox N, Griffiths C, editors. Rook's textbook of dermatology. USA: Blackwell; 2004. p. 54.1-54.53.  Back to cited text no. 5      
6.Liu HL, Hoppe RT, Kohler S, Harvell JD, Reddy S, Kim YH. CD301 cutaneous lymphoproliferative disorders: The Stanford experience in lymphomatoid papulosis and primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma. J Am Acad Dermatol 2003;49:1049-58.  Back to cited text no. 6      
7.Meisenheimer JL. Novel use of 308-nm excimer laser to treat a primary cutaneous CD301 lymphoproliferative nodule. J Drugs Dermatol 2007;6:440-2.  Back to cited text no. 7      
8.Blume JE, Stoll HL, Cheney RT. Treatment of primary cutaneous CD301 anaplastic large cell lymphoma with intralesional methotrexate. J Am Acad Dermatol 2006;54: S229-30.  Back to cited text no. 8      
9.Didona B, Benucci R, Amerio P, Canzona F, Rienzo O, Cavaliera R. Primary cutaneous CD301 T -cell lymphoma responsive to topical imiquimod (Aldara). Br J Dermatol 2004;150:1198-201.  Back to cited text no. 9      

Correspondence Address:
Venkatram Mysore
# 3437, 1st G Cross, 7th Main, Next to BTS Garage, Subbanna Garden, Vijaynagar, Bangalore - 560 040
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-2077.58525

Rights and Permissions


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8], [Figure 9]

This article has been cited by
1 Deep Sequencing of Immunoglobulin Genes Identifies a Very Low Percentage of Monoclonal B Cells in Primary Cutaneous Marginal Zone Lymphomas with CD30-Positive Hodgkin/Reed–Sternberg-like Cells
Arianna Di Napoli, Evelina Rogges, Niccolò Noccioli, Anna Gazzola, Gianluca Lopez, Severino Persechino, Rita Mancini, Elena Sabattini
Diagnostics. 2022; 12(2): 290
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Intralesional methotrexate in dermatology: Diverse indications and practical considerations
Tamara Searle, Faisal R. Ali, Firas Al-Niaimi
Dermatologic Therapy. 2021; 34(1)
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Primary Cutaneous CD30+ Lymphoproliferative Disorders: a Comprehensive Review
Cosimo Di Raimondo, Vishwas Parekh, Joo Y. Song, Steven T. Rosen, Christiane Querfeld, Jasmine Zain, Xochiquetzal U. Martinez, Farah R. Abdulla
Current Hematologic Malignancy Reports. 2020; 15(4): 333
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Case Report
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded224    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 3    

Recommend this journal