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The idea of setting up an international group of investigators to study extranodal lymphomas was first launched in 1997 during a mid-summer meeting of clinicians and pathologists from Italian and Swiss oncology institutes convened to discuss participation in the international randomized study of gastric lymphomas MALT, designed by the UK Lymphoma Group.

That dream soon became a reality: in January 1998, in Ascona, Switzerland, during what we now remember as our first Annual Meeting, the International Extranodal Lymphoma Study Group (IELSG) was created to coordinate a study on non-gastric MALT lymphomas in several European centers.

Since then, the group has expanded very rapidly. The second meeting in 1999 was attended for the first time by participants from Canada and the USA. Protocols in the fields of testicular, CNS and intestinal lymphomas were accepted and activated.

During the following years, additional studies on cutaneous, breast, lymphoma, bone and primary effusion lymphoma were started. A key factor for their successful completion was the creation of a central panel of expert pathologists to address the still important diagnostic problems related to the studies.

Since 2004, the main institutes participating in the group’s activities have started to host our Annual Meeting outside Switzerland on alternate years (in Barcelona, Rome, Toronto, Paris, Athens, London, Stuttgart…).

To better deal with its expanding activity, in 2005 the IELSG was registered as a non-profit association according to the Swiss law: the cooperative group appointed its Board of Directors and opened an Operation Office in Bellinzona, Switzerland.

The outstanding dedication of all participants to the IELSG has been fruitful, many studies have been presented at major international medical congresses and several manuscripts have been continuously published in the most prestigious scientific journals.