Differential diagnoses of systemic mastocytosis in routinely processed bone marrow biopsy specimens: a review.
Diagnosis of systemic mastocytosis (SM) is mainly based on the morphological demonstration of compact mast cell infiltrates in various tissue sites. In almost all patients such infiltrates are detected in the bone marrow. Reliable immunohistochemical markers for the diagnosis and grading of SM have been established, but various differential diagnoses including myeloproliferative neoplasms, basophilic and eosinophilic leukemias may be very difficult to delineate. Even more challenging is the recognition of hematological neoplasms with signs of mast cell differentiation but not fulfilling diagnostic criteria for SM, especially the rare myelomastocytic leukemia. It is also important to separate the reactive state of mast cell hyperplasia from indolent variants of SM, especially those with a very low degree of bone marrow infiltration and absence of compact mast cell infiltrates. When the lymphocytic component of the SM infiltrate is very prominent, SM may be confused with an indolent lymphoma, especially lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma which almost always shows a marked reactive increase in mast cells. In aggressive and leukemic variants of SM, mast cells may be very atypical and devoid of metachromatic granules. This hypogranulation can be regarded as cellular atypia and may lead to the misdiagnosis aspect of monocytic leukemia or histiocytic neoplasm. Regarding immunohistochemical anomalies, mast cells in aggressive and leukemic SM have been found to express CD30 (Ki1-antigen). Thus, anaplastic large cell lymphoma or Hodgkin's disease may first be considered rather than SM. There is increasing evidence that most patients with long-standing adult-type urticaria pigmentosa-like skin lesions have in fact indolent SM. Therefore, such skin lesions are an important clue to the correct diagnosis in these patients. However, in aggressive or leukemic SM skin lesions are usually absent and then the correct diagnosis relies on an appropriate investigation of bone marrow biopsy specimens using both SM-related immunohistochemical markers (tryptase, KIT, CD25, CD30) but also markers excluding potential differential diagnoses. Investigation for presence of the activating KIT point mutation D816V is very helpful to establish a correct diagnosis of SM in all the difficult cases exhibiting a low degree of bone marrow infiltration or puzzling morphological findings.