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Leukemia. 2000 Apr;14(4):636-41.

Cytogenetic analogy between myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia of elderly patients.

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Sezione Ematologia, Spedali Civili, Brescia, Italy.


The biological and clinical importance of cytogenetic analysis in myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is being increasingly recognized. Recently, cytogenetic similarities were noted between elderly de novo AML and secondary AML, suggesting common etiopathogenetic mechanisms. In the present study we analyzed the cytogenetic similarities between patients with AML of different age and patients with MDS consecutively diagnosed during a 5-year period at a single, primary referral, hematologic center. Of 246 patients aged <86 years, 195 (80%) had a cytogenetic study at diagnosis. Informative metaphases were obtained in 182 cases (93%), including 17 (9.3%) with secondary MDS/AML. Patients were classified according to FAB criteria and were subdivided into four groups: (1) 'early MDS': 42 patients with MDS of FAB subtypes other than refractory anemia with excess of blasts (RAEB) or RAEB in transformation (RAEB-T); (2) 'late MDS': 35 patients with RAEB and RAEB-T; (3) 'old AML': 48 patients with AML aged 65 to 85 years; (4) 'young AML': 57 patients with AML aged <65 years. Results showed that 'late MDS' and 'old AML' had striking cytogenetic similarities both in the frequency of normal karyotypes (31% and 27%), single abnormalities (14% and 13%), double abnormalities (17% and 14%), complex karyotypes (37% and 46%), and numerical abnormalities (89% and 93%), as well as in the frequency of rearrangements involving chromosome 5 (20% and 31%) and 7 (27% and 27%). The only difference between the two groups was found in the median number of chromosomes involved in complex karyotypes (5 vs 8; P=0.03). 'Early MDS' had significantly less complex karyotypes (21%; P<0.05), but its cytogenetic features resembled otherwise those of 'late MDS' and 'old AML', and any significant difference disappeared when patients with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) were excluded. CMML markedly differed from other MDS subtypes in the frequency of normal (57%) and of complex karyotypes (6%). Secondary MDS/AML and AML with trilineage dysplasia shared the same cytogenetic features of 'late MDS' and 'old AML'. 'Young AML' strikingly differed from all other groups, particularly in the higher frequency of balanced translocations (29%; P<0.001) and single karyotype abnormalities (32%; P<0.02), and in the lower frequency of complex karyotypes (19%; P<0.01) and of chromosome 5 (2%; P<0.001) and 7 (9%; P<0.01) involvement. We conclude that in a population-based series of patients, the cytogenetic profile of MDS, particularly of RAEB/RAEB-T, was nearly identical to that of elderly patients with AML both in the frequency and in the type of chromosomal abnormalities. These results support the possibility that MDS and AML of elderly patients may represent the same disease seen at different stages of evolution.

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