Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Current understanding and management of pulmonary Langerhans cell histiocytosis
  1. Robert Vassallo1,
  2. Sergio Harari2,
  3. Abdellatif Tazi3
  1. 1Departments of Medicine, Physiology and Biomedical Engineering, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  2. 2U.O. di Pneumologia e Terapia Semi-Intensiva Respiratoria “Servizio di Fisiopatologia Respiratoria ed Emodinamica Polmonare, Ospedale San Giuseppe“ Multimedica IRCCS, Milano, Italy
  3. 3Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Saint-Louis Hospital, National Reference Center for Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, University Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cite, Inserm UMR-1153 (CRESS), Biostatistics and Clinical Epidemiology Research Team (ECSTRA), Paris, Ile-de-France, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Robert Vassallo, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Departments of Medicine, Physiology and Biomedical Engineering, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA; vassallo.robert{at}


Pulmonary Langerhans cell histiocytosis (PLCH) is a diffuse lung disease that usually affects young adult smokers. PLCH affects different lung compartments; bronchiolar, interstitial and pulmonary vascular dysfunction may coexist to varying extents, resulting in diverse phenotypes. Analyses of PLCH tissues have identified activating mutations of specific mitogen-activated protein kinases (BRAFV600E and others). The current consensus is that PLCH represents a myeloid neoplasm with inflammatory properties: the myeloid tumour cells exhibit surface CD1a expression and up to 50% of the cells harbour activating BRAF or other MAPK mutations. PLCH may be associated with multisystem disease. The detection of disease outside of the thorax is facilitated by whole body positron emission tomography. The natural history of PLCH is unpredictable. In some patients, disease may remit or stabilise following smoking cessation. Others develop progressive lung disease, often associated with evidence of airflow limitation and pulmonary vascular dysfunction. Due to the inability to accurately predict the natural history, it is important that all patients undergo longitudinal follow-up at least twice a year for the first few years following diagnosis. The treatment of PLCH is challenging and should be individualised. While there is no general consensus regarding the role of immunosuppression or chemotherapy in management, selected patients may experience improvement in lung function with therapy. Determination of BRAFV600E or other mutations may assist with the development of an individualised approach to therapy. Patients with progressive disease should be referred to specialised centres and considered for a trial of pharmacotherapy or evaluated for transplantation.

  • rare lung diseases
  • tobacco and the lung

Statistics from


  • Contributors RV, SH and AT conceived the design, performed independent literature searches and drafted the manuscript. The manuscript was edited multiple times by all the authors. The final version was also approved by all the authors. For this review, RV, SH and AT can serve as guarantors of the content.

  • Funding This work was supported by a Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute grant (RV).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. The corresponding author's contact details has been corrected.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.