A significant proportion of classic Hodgkin lymphoma recurrences represents clonally unrelated second primary lymphoma

Despite high cure rates in classic Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL), relapses are observed. Whether relapsed cHL represents second primary lymphoma or an underlying T-cell lymphoma (TCL) mimicking cHL is under-investigated. To analyze the nature of cHL recurrences, in-depth clonality testing of immunoglobulin (IG) and T-cell receptor (TR) rearrangements was performed in paired cHL diagnosis and recurrences of 60 patients, supported by targeted mutation analysis of lymphoma-associated genes. Clonal IG rearrangements were detected by next-generation sequencing (NGS) in 69/120 (58%) diagnosis and recurrence samples. The clonal relationship could be established in 34 cases, identifying clonally related relapsed cHL in 24/34 patients (71%). Clonally unrelated cHL was observed in 10/34 patients (29%) as determined by IG-NGS clonality assessment, and confirmed by the identification of predominantly mutually exclusive gene mutations in the paired cHL samples. In recurrences of >2 years, ~60% of cHL patients for which the clonal relationship could be established showed a second primary cHL. Clonal TR gene rearrangements were identified in 14/125 samples (11%), and TCL-associated gene mutations were detected in 7/14 samples. Retrospective pathology review with integration of the molecular findings were consistent with an underlying TCL in 5 patients aged >50 years. This study shows that cHL recurrences, especially after 2 years, sometimes represent a new primary cHL or TCL mimicking cHL, as uncovered by NGS-based IG/TR clonality testing and gene mutation analysis. Given the significant therapeutic consequences, molecular testing of a presumed relapse in cHL is crucial for subsequent appropriate treatment strategies adapted to the specific lymphoma presentation.

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