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Rev Clin Exp Hematol. 2000 Mar;4(1):48-72.

Genetic features of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

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Department of Internal Medicine III, University of Ulm, Germany.


The genetic features of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are currently being reassessed by molecular cytogenetic techniques such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Conventional cytogenetic studies by chromosome banding are difficult in CLL mainly because of the low in vitro mitotic activity of the tumor cells, which leads to poor quantity and quality of metaphase spreads. Molecular genetic analyses are limited because candidate genes are known for only a few chromosomal aberrations that are observed in CLL. FISH was found to be a powerful tool for the genetic analysis of CLL as it overcomes both the low mitotic activity of the CLL cells and the lack of suitable candidate genes for analysis. Using FISH, the detection of chromosomal aberrations can be performed at the single cell level in both dividing and non-dividing cells, thus circumventing the need of metaphase preparations from tumor cells. Probes for the detection of trisomies, deletions and translocation breakpoints can be applied to the regions of interest with the growing number of clones available from genome-wide libraries. Using the interphase cytogenetic FISH approach with a disease specific set of probes, chromosome aberrations can be found in more than 80% of CLL cases. The most frequently observed abnormalities are losses of chromosomal material, with deletions in band 13q14 being the most common, followed by deletions in 11q22-q23, deletions in 17p13 and deletions in 6q21. The most common gains of chromosomal material are trisomies 12q, 8q and 3q. Translocation breakpoints, in particular involving the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus at 14q32, which are frequently observed in other types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, are rare events in CLL. Genes affected by common chromosome aberrations in CLL appear to be p53 in cases with 17p deletion and ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM), which is mutated in a subset of cases with 11q22-q23 aberrations. However, for the other frequently affected genomic regions, the search for candidate genes is ongoing. In parallel, the accurate evaluation of the incidence of chromosome aberrations in CLL by FISH allows the correlation of genetic abnormalities with clinical disease manifestations and outcome. In particular, 17p abnormalities and deletions in 11q22-q23 have already been shown to be among the most important independent prognostic factors identifying subgroups of patients with rapid disease progression and short survival. In addition, deletion 17p has been associated with resistance to treatment with purine analogs. Therefore, genetic abnormalities may allow a risk assessment for individual patients at the time of diagnosis, thus giving the opportunity for a risk-adapted management.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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