B-prolymphocytic leukemia (B-PLL) is included as a distinct entity in the current World Health Organization classification of hematolymphoid neoplasms. However, the diagnosis of B-PLL has presented several challenges since its conception, and over the past decades investigations of B-PLL have revealed substantial biologic and molecular heterogeneity. These data have shown that many B-PLL cases present many similarities with other types of small B-cell lymphomas, and that small B-cell lymphomas can undergo prolymphocytoid transformation. As a result, the frequency of B-PLL has markedly decreased, and currently B-PLL is a very rare entity. Most recent studies focused on B-PLL cases have been conducted on limited cohorts, precluding robust conclusions. In this article, we provide a concise historical review of B-PLL and describe the diagnostic and clinical challenges associated with establishing this diagnosis. We also argue that cases currently classified as B-PLL are unlikely to be a unique biologic entity, but rather represent a state of morphologic transformation characterized by many prolymphocytes that is shared by various types of small B-cell lymphoma.
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