Nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL) is characterized by neoplastic lymphocyte-predominant cells frequently rimmed by CD3+/CD57+/programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1)+ T cells. Because of the rarity of lymphocyte-predominant cells in most cases, flow cytometric studies on NLPHL often fail to show evidence of malignancy.


To evaluate the diagnostic utility of PD-1 in detecting NLPHL by flow cytometry, in conjunction with the CD4:CD8 ratio and the percentage of T cells doubly positive for CD4 and CD8.


Flow cytometric data obtained from cases of NLPHL (n = 10), classical Hodgkin lymphoma (n = 20), B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (n = 22), T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (n = 5), benign lymphoid lesions (n = 20), angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphomas (n = 6) and T-cell/histiocyte–rich large B-cell lymphomas (n = 2) were analyzed and compared.


Compared with the other groups, NLPHL showed significantly higher values in the following parameters: CD4:CD8 ratio, percentage of T cells doubly positive for CD4 and CD8, percentage of PD-1–positive T cells, and median fluorescence intensity of PD-1 expression in the doubly positive for CD4 and CD8 subset. Using a scoring system (0–4) based on arbitrary cutoffs for these 4 parameters, all 10 NLPHL cases scored 3 or higher, as compared with only 3 cases from the other groups, producing an overall sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 96% (72 of 75). Two of the 3 outliers were non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and both showed definitive immunophenotypic abnormalities leading to the correct diagnosis. The remaining outlier was a case of T-cell/histiocyte–rich large B-cell lymphoma.


The inclusion of anti–PD-1 in flow cytometry is useful for detecting NLPHL in fresh tissue samples, most of which would have otherwise been labeled as nondiagnostic or reactive lymphoid processes.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.