Burkitt's lymphoma

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Burkitt's lymphoma
Classification and external resources
File:Burkitt lymphoma, touch prep, Wright stain.jpg
Burkitt lymphoma, touch prep, Wright stain
ICD-10 C83.7
ICD-9 200.2
ICD-O: M9687/3
OMIM 113970
DiseasesDB 1784
eMedicine med/256
MeSH D002051
GeneReviews 2=

Burkitt lymphoma (or "Burkitt's tumor", or "Malignant lymphoma, Burkitt's type") is a cancer of the lymphatic system (in particular, B lymphocytes). It is named after Denis Parsons Burkitt, a surgeon who first described the disease in 1956 while working in equatorial Africa.[1][2]



Almost by definition, Burkitt's lymphoma is associated with a chromosomal translocation of the c-myc gene. This gene is found at 8q24.

  • The most common variant is t(8;14)(q24;q32). This involves c-myc and IGH@. A variant of this, a three-way translocation, t(8;14;18), has also been identified.[3]
  • A rare variant is at t(2;8)(p12;q24).[4] This involves IGK@ and c-myc.
  • Another rare variant is t(8;22)(q24;q11).[4] This involves IGL@ and c-myc.


Currently Burkitt's lymphoma can be divided into three main clinical variants: the endemic, the sporadic and the immunodeficiency-associated variants which are all associated with HIV and AIDS. Burkitts Lymphoma is usually associated with over 90% of AIDS cases. All facial features exhibited by Burkitts lymphoma are associated to HIV/AIDS.[5]

File:Large facial Burkitt's Lymphoma.JPG
Seven-year-old Nigerian boy with a several month history of jaw swelling which had been treated with antibiotics. The tumor was ulcerated and draining.
File:Burkitt's lymphoma.jpg
Picture of a mouth of a patient with Burkitt's lymphoma showing disruption of teeth and partial obstruction of airway.
  • The endemic variant occurs in equatorial Africa. It is the most common malignancy of children in this area. Children affected with the disease often also had chronic malaria which is believed to have reduced resistance to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) allowing it to take hold. The disease characteristically involves the jaw or other facial bone, distal ileum, cecum, ovaries, kidney or the breast.
  • The sporadic type of Burkitt lymphoma (also known as "non-African") is another form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma found outside of Africa. The tumor cells have a similar appearance to the cancer cells of classical African or endemic Burkitt lymphoma. Again it is believed that impaired immunity provides an opening for development of the Epstein-Barr virus. Non-Hodgkins, which includes Burkitt's, accounts for 30-50% of childhood lymphoma. Jaw is less commonly involved, comparing with the endemic variant. Ileo-cecal region is the common site of involvement.
  • Immunodeficiency-associated Burkitt lymphoma is usually associated with HIV infection[6] or occurs in the setting of post-transplant patients who are taking immunosuppressive drugs. Burkitt lymphoma can be one of the diseases associated with the initial manifestation of AIDS.

By morphology (i.e. microscopic appearance) or immunophenotype, it is almost impossible to differentiate these three clinical variants. Immunodeficiency-associated Burkitt lymphoma may demonstrate more plasmacytic appearance or more pleomorphism, but these features are not specific.


File:Burkitt lymphoma, H&E.jpg
Burkitt's lymphoma, standard H&E stain.

Consists of sheets of monotonous (i.e. similar in size and morphology) population of medium size lymphoid cells with high proliferative activity and apoptotic activity. The "starry sky" appearance seen[7] under low power is due to scattered tingible body-laden macrophages (macrophages containing dead body of apoptotic tumor cells). The old descriptive term of "small non-cleaved cell" is misleading. The tumor cells are mostly medium in size (i.e. tumor nuclei size similar to that of histiocytes or endothelial cells). "Small non-cleaved cells" are compared to "large non-cleaved cells" of normal germinal center lymphocytes. Tumor cells possess small amount of basophilic cytoplasm. The cellular outline usually appears squared off.

Malignant B cell characteristics

Normal B cells possess rearranged immunoglobulin heavy and light chain genes and each isolated B-cell possesses a unique IgH gene rearrangement. Since Burkitt lymphoma and other B-cell lymphomas are a clonal proliferative process, all tumor cells from one patient are supposed to possess identical IgH genes. When the DNA of tumor cells is analyzed using electrophoresis, a clonal band can be demonstrated since identical IgH genes will move to the same position. On the contrary, when a normal or reactive lymph node is analyzed using the same technique, a smear rather than a distinct band will be seen. This technique is useful since sometimes benign reactive processes (e.g. infectious mononucleosis) and malignant lymphoma can be difficult to distinguish.


Treatment with dose-adjusted EPOCH with Rituxan (rituximab) has shown an 8 year survival rate of 91% for low risk, 90% for low-intermediate risk, 67% for high-intermediate risk, and 31% for high risk cases with few of the side effects associated with Burkitt's lymphoma chemotherapy.[8]

Effect of the chemotherapy, as with all cancers, depends on the time of diagnosis. With faster growing cancers, such as Burkitt's, the cancer actually responds faster than with slower growing cancers. This rapid response to chemotherapy can be hazardous to patient as a phenomenon called "tumor lysis syndrome" could occur. Close monitoring of patient and adequate hydration is essential during the process.


Other treatments are immunotherapy, bone marrow transplants, surgery to remove the tumor, and radiotherapy.


Of all cancers involving the same class of blood cell, 2% of cases are Burkitt's lymphoma.[10]


  1. synd/2511 at Who Named It?
  2. Burkitt D (1958). [Expression error: Missing operand for > "A sarcoma involving the jaws in African children"]. The British journal of surgery 46 (197): 218–23. doi:10.1002/bjs.18004619704. PMID 13628987. 
  3. Liu D, Shimonov J, Primanneni S, Lai Y, Ahmed T, Seiter K (2007). [Expression error: Missing operand for > "t(8;14;18): a 3-way chromosome translocation in two patients with Burkitt's lymphoma/leukemia"]. Mol. Cancer 6: 35. doi:10.1186/1476-4598-6-35. PMID 17547754. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Smardova J, Grochova D, Fabian P, et al. (October 2008). "An unusual p53 mutation detected in Burkitt's lymphoma: 30 bp duplication". Oncol. Rep. 20 (4): 773–8. PMID 18813817. http://www.spandidos-publications.com/or/article.jsp?article_id=or_20_4_773. 
  5. Ferry JA (April 2006). "Burkitt's lymphoma: clinicopathologic features and differential diagnosis". Oncologist 11 (4): 375–83. doi:10.1634/theoncologist.11-4-375. PMID 16614233. http://theoncologist.alphamedpress.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=16614233. 
  6. Bellan C, Lazzi S, De Falco G, Nyongo A, Giordano A, Leoncini L (March 2003). "Burkitt's lymphoma: new insights into molecular pathogenesis". J. Clin. Pathol. 56 (3): 188–92. doi:10.1136/jcp.56.3.188. PMID 12610094. PMC 1769902. http://jcp.bmj.com/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=12610094. 
  7. Fujita S, Buziba N, Kumatori A, Senba M, Yamaguchi A, Toriyama K (May 2004). "Early stage of Epstein-Barr virus lytic infection leading to the "starry sky" pattern formation in endemic Burkitt lymphoma". Arch. Pathol. Lab. Med. 128 (5): 549–52. PMID 15086279. http://journals.allenpress.com/jrnlserv/?request=get-abstract&issn=0003-9985&volume=128&page=549. 
  8. Wyndham H. Wilson, Kieron Dunleavy, Stefania Pittaluga, Upendra Hegde, Nicole Grant, Seth M. Steinberg, Mark Raffeld, Martin Gutierrez, Bruce A. Chabner, Louis Staudt, Elaine S. Jaffe, and John E. Janik (2008). [Expression error: Missing operand for > "Phase II Study of Dose-Adjusted EPOCH-Rituximab in Untreated Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma with Analysis of Germinal Center and Post-Germinal Center Biomarkers"]. Journal of Clinical Oncology 26 (16): 2717–2714. doi:10.1200/JCO.2007.13.1391. PMID 18378569. 
  9. Yustein JT, Dang CV (2007). [Expression error: Missing operand for > "Biology and treatment of Burkitt's lymphoma"]. Curr. Opin. Hematol. 14 (4): 375–81. doi:10.1097/MOH.0b013e3281bccdee. PMID 17534164. 
  10. Turgeon, Mary Louise (2005). Clinical hematology: theory and procedures. Hagerstown, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 283. ISBN 0-7817-5007-5. "Frequency of lymphoid neoplasms. (Source: Modified from WHO Blue Book on Tumour of Hematopoietic and Lymphoid Tissues. 2001, p. 2001.)" 
cs:Burkittův lymfom

de:Burkitt-Lymphom es:Linfoma de Burkitt fr:Lymphome de Burkitt he:לימפומת בירקיט id:Limfoma Burkitt it:Linfoma di Burkitt nl:Burkittlymfoom pl:Chłoniak Burkitta pt:Linfoma de Burkitt ru:Лимфома Беркитта fi:Burkittin lymfooma

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