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Blood. 2001 Jul 1;98(1):181-6.

CD38 expression as an important prognostic factor in B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

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Department of Hematopathology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.


CD38 is a transmembrane glycoprotein expressed on the surface of leukemic cells in a significant percentage of patients with B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL). A recent study suggested that CD38 expression has prognostic value in CLL. Peripheral blood samples from 218 patients with B-CLL were analyzed by flow cytometry for CD38 expression on CD5/19(+) leukemic cells. Various patient characteristics were studied including age, sex, Rai and Binet stages, splenomegaly, hepatomegaly, hemoglobin (Hgb) level, beta-2 microglobulin (beta2M) level in the serum, number of nodal sites involved with disease, and length of survival. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to construct survival curves, and the log-rank statistic was used to compare these curves. CD38 was expressed in 20% or more of leukemic cells in 43% of the patients. Patients with high CD38 expression (20% or more) had significantly shorter survival times (P =.00005). Multivariate analyses showed that CD38 expression is an important prognostic factor associated with high incidence of lymph node involvement (P =.004), lower hemoglobin level (P =.001), hepatomegaly (P =.05), and high beta2M level (P =.00005). CD38 expression identified a group of patients with aggressive disease that was considered by Rai staging to be early-stage disease (Rai stages 0-II). Patients with CD38(+) samples have significantly aggressive disease regardless of their clinical stage. Measurement of CD38 expression by flow cytometry should become a routine test in the evaluation of patients with CLL.

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