Cytomorphology of follicular dendritic cell sarcoma: a report of 7 cases with an emphasis on the diagnostic challenges

Cody Weimholt, Jalal B. Jalaly, Cedric Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Follicular dendritic cell sarcoma is a malignant neoplasm derived from germinal center follicular dendritic cells, which both share a characteristic immunophenotype (namely CD21, CD23, and CD35). Cytomorphologic descriptions are few, consisting of only 26 prior cases from 24 publications. Identification by cytologic means appears challenging as the majority of previous reports disclose an erroneous or indeterminate initial cytologic diagnosis. Herein, we present the largest cytology series to date with the aim of expanding upon this small body of literature and discuss possible factors resulting in misinterpretation. Materials and methods: A retrospective search was conducted from 2 academic medical centers to identify histologically confirmed cases of follicular dendritic cell sarcoma with an associated cytologic component. Clinicopathologic data were tabulated and a comparative analysis of cytomorphologic and immunohistochemical features was performed. Results: Seven separate cases were identified. All cases showed cohesive tumor cells with a characteristic voluminous, ill-defined cytoplasm with interconnecting fibrillary processes and intimately admixed mature lymphocytes. Features were maintained across various cytologic preparations, including conventional smear, liquid-based cytology, and touch imprint. Unusual immunohistochemical profiles were noted in a subset of cases. Conclusions: Cytomorphology is highly conserved across cases and preparations; however, a propensity for aberrant immunoexpression may contribute to diagnostic errors. Cytomorphologic features, supported by immunohistochemistry, suggest fine-needle aspiration as a reasonable diagnostic modality. Tumors with these features should include CD21, CD23, and/or CD35 in the workup.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-238
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Society of Cytopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2023


  • Case series
  • Cytology
  • Cytomorphology
  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy
  • Follicular dendritic cell sarcoma


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