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Am J Hematol. 2001 May;67(1):34-41.

CD34-positive acute promyelocytic leukemia is associated with leukocytosis, microgranular/hypogranular morphology, expression of CD2 and bcr3 isoform.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation, Hamilton, Canada.


Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) has a favorable prognosis. Current therapy includes chemotherapy used in combination with all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA). Although the differentiating effects of ATRA on promyelocytes have been well established, in vitro studies have shown that less-differentiated APL blasts (CD34(+)) demonstrate a variable responsiveness to ATRA. To assess the clinical relevance of this finding, we analyzed a cohort of 38 patients with t(15;17) and/or PML-RARalpha APL to determine the incidence and laboratory features of CD34(+) APL. Thirty-two percent (12/38) of cases were CD34(+). There was a difference in WBC at presentation between CD34(+) and CD34(-) cases (34.6 +/- 9.2, mean +/- standard error vs. 5.4 +/- 2.0, P = 0.009). Patients with CD34(+) APL demonstrated a micro/hypogranular phenotype (75%) (P = 0.001), co-expression of CD2(+) (83%) (P = 0.001), and the bcr3 isoform (100%) (P = 0.017). In contrast, CD34(-) cases demonstrated hypergranular morphology (65%), CD2(+) (15%), and the bcr1 isoform (50%). A high presenting WBC count (\G10 x 10(9)/L) was associated with an inferior overall survival (Log rank = 0.0047). Patients with CD34(+) APL demonstrated an incidence of early mortality of 50%. Despite a marked correlation between CD34 positivity and increased WBC count, overall survival of CD34(+) and CD34(-) cases did not differ significantly in our small cohort. Immunophenotypic analysis for CD34 expression should be included in future large APL trials to determine if detection of CD34(+) blasts represents an independent adverse prognostic factor.

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