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Hematology. 2004 Jun;9(3):165-70.

Acute leukemia subclassification: a marker protein expression perspective.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Padova, Italy.


Improved leukemia classification and tailoring of therapy have greatly improved patient outcome particularly for children with acute leukemia (AL). Using immunophenotyping, molecular genetics and cytogenetics the low hanging fruits of biomedical research have been successfully incorporated in routine diagnosis of leukemia subclasses. Future improvements in the classification and understanding of leukemia biology will very likely be more slow and laborious. Recently, gene expression profiling has provided a framework for the global molecular analysis of hematological cancers, and high throughput proteomic analysis of leukemia samples is on the way. Here we consider classification of acute leukemia samples by flow cytometry using the marker proteins of immunophenotyping as a component of the proteome. Marker protein expressions are converted into quantitative expression values and subjected to computational analysis. Quantitative multivariate analysis from panels of marker proteins has demonstrated that marker protein expression profiles can distinguish MLLre from non-MLLre ALL cases and also allow to specifically distinguish MLL/AF4 cases. Potentially, these quantitative expression analyses can be used in clinical diagnosis. Immunophenotypic data collection using flow cytometry is a fast and relatively easily accessible technology that has already been implemented in most centers for leukemia diagnosis and the translation into quantitative expression data sets is a matter of flow cytometer settings and output calibration. However, before application in clinical diagnostics can occur it is crucial that quantitative immunophenotypic data set analysis is validated in independent experiments and in large data sets.

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