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Mod Pathol. 2013 Feb;26(2):195-203. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2012.142. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

TdT expression in acute myeloid leukemia with minimal differentiation is associated with distinctive clinicopathological features and better overall survival following stem cell transplantation.

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  • 1Department of Hematopathology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


The diagnostic criteria for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), not otherwise specified, with minimal differentiation (AML-M0, French-American-British classification), have been refined in the 2008 World Health Organization (WHO) classification. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) expression in AML-M0 has been proposed by others as a surrogate for RUNX1 (runt-related transcription factor 1) mutations, a mutation associated with distinct gene expression profiles in AML-M0. In this study, we investigated the significance of TdT expression in AML-M0 cases defined using the 2008 WHO classification criteria. Demographic, laboratory and clinical information were obtained from the hospital medical records. Statistical analysis was performed using Student's t-test, log-rank test and Fisher's exact test. The study group included 30 AML-M0 patients (male:female=19:11; median age: 60 years). In all, 10 cases of AML-M0 were positive for TdT(+) and 20 cases were negative for TdT(-). Patients with TdT+ AML-M0 had higher peripheral blood and bone marrow blast counts compared to patients with TdT- AML-M0 (P=0.01). TdT expression in AML-M0 was not associated with a distinct immunophenotype. Monoclonal IgH and TCR gene rearrangements were frequent, but independent of TdT expression in AML-M0. TdT expression in AML-M0 correlated with trisomy 13 and inversely correlated with aberrations of chromosomes 5 and 17. Among six patients with AML-M0 who received a stem cell transplant, overall survival was significantly longer for the three TdT+ patients compared with the three TdT- patients (P=0.03). In the TdT+AML-M0 subgroup, the three patients with stem cell transplant had better overall survival compared with five patients who did not receive stem cell transplant (P=0.01). We conclude that AML-M0, as currently defined in the 2008 WHO classification, can be divided into two groups based on TdT expression. Although there is a need to assess a greater number of patients, our results suggest that TdT positivity in AML-M0 identifies a subset of patients with a better prognosis after stem cell transplant.

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