Richter's transformation

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Richter's syndrome (RS), also known as Richter's transformation, is a transformation of B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)[1] or hairy cell leukemia into a fast-growing diffuse large B cell lymphoma, a variety of non-Hodgkin lymphoma which is refractory to treatment and carries a bad prognosis.[2] There is also a less common variant in which the CLL changes into a Hodgkin's lymphoma. Rarely, transformations to a form of myeloid leukemia have been observed. These extraordinarily rare transformations carry a very poor prognosis.[3] Richter's transformation affects about 5% of CLL patients at some point during their lives.[4]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

Symptoms of Richter’s transformation in a CLL patient include fever (without infection), elevated serum levels of lactate dehydrogenase, and rapidly enlarging lymph nodes.[5] While about 8% of all CLL patients will have elevated levels of serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), more than 50% of CLL patients with Richter's transformation will have elevated LDH levels.

Richter's can appear suddenly, even in patients who were in remission.


A case of RS may have arisen by one of two different routes: a transformation of the CLL cells into lymphoma, or the appearance of an unrelated lymphoma.[4]

It is thought that genetic defects may introduce the additional abnormalities necessary to transform CLL cells into Richter's syndrome cells.[5]


Treatment with conventional immunochemotherapy is usually indicated; in younger patients, allogeneic bone marrow transplantation may be curative.[4]


The prognosis is generally poor. The RS score (Richter syndrome score), which is an estimate of the patient's prognosis, is based on the patient's performance status, LDH, platelet count, the size of the lymphoma tumors, and the number of prior therapies already received.[4] Overall, the median survival is between five and eight months.[6] Untreated, RS is invariably fatal.

The Hodgkin's lymphoma variant of Richter's carries a better prognosis than the predominant diffuse large B-cell lymphoma type, but a worse prognosis than a de novo case of Hodgkin's.


In the United States, about 500 patients are diagnosed with Richter's transformation each year.[5]


  1. ^ Jain, P; O'Brien, S (Dec 2012). "Richter's transformation in chronic lymphocytic leukemia". Oncology (Williston Park, N.Y.). 26 (12): 1146–52. PMID 23413591.
  2. ^ "NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms: R". National Cancer Institute. NIH. 2011-02-02. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  3. ^ Hatoum, Hassan A.; Mahfouz, Rami A.R.; Otrock, Zaher K.; Hudaib, Abdel-Rahman; Taher, Ali T.; Shamseddine, Ali I. (2007). "Acute myeloid leukemia with T-cell receptor gamma gene rearrangement occurring in a patient with chronic lymphocytic leukemia: A case report". American Journal of Hematology. 82 (1): 69–72. doi:10.1002/ajh.20762. ISSN 0361-8609. PMID 16947317.
  4. ^ a b c d Rossi D, Gaidano G (March 2009). "Richter syndrome: molecular insights and clinical perspectives". Hematol Oncol. 27 (1): 1–10. doi:10.1002/hon.880. PMID 19206112.
  5. ^ a b c Tsimberidou, Apostolia-Maria; Keating, Michael J.; Wierda, William G. (October 2007). "Richter's transformation in chronic lymphocytic leukemia". Current Hematologic Malignancy Reports. 2 (4): 265–271. doi:10.1007/s11899-007-0036-9. PMID 20425379.
  6. ^ Swords, R; Bruzzi, J; Giles, F (2007). "Recent advances in the diagnosis and therapy of Richter's syndrome". Medical Oncology (Northwood, London, England). 24 (1): 17–32. doi:10.1007/BF02685899. PMID 17673808.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tsimberidou AM, O'Brien S, Khouri I, Giles FJ, Kantarjian HM, Champlin R, Wen S, Do KA, Smith SC, Lerner S, Freireich EJ, Keating MJ (May 20, 2006). "Clinical Outcomes and Prognostic Factors in Patients With Richter's Syndrome Treated With Chemotherapy or Chemoimmunotherapy With or Without Stem-Cell Transplantation". Journal of Clinical Oncology. 24 (15): 2343–2351. doi:10.1200/JCO.2005.05.0187. PMID 16710033.
  • Richter's syndrome on CancerResearchUK