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Leukemia. 2005 May;19(5):750-8.

Combined analysis of ZAP-70 and CD38 expression as a predictor of disease progression in B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

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Department of Hematology and Oncology, Georg-August-University Goettingen, Germany.


Prognostic predictions in B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) at early clinical stage are based on biological disease parameters, such as ZAP-70 and CD38 protein levels, genomic aberrations as well as immunoglobulin variable heavy chain gene (IgV(H)) mutation status. In the current study, ZAP-70 and CD38 expressions were examined by flow cytometry in 252 patients with B-CLL. Cytoplasmic ZAP-70 expression in more than 20% (ZAP-70(+)) and surface CD38 expression on more than 30% (CD38(+)) of B-CLL cells were associated with an unfavorable clinical course. The levels of ZAP-70 and CD38 did not change over time in the majority of patients where sequential samples were available for analysis. Combined analysis of ZAP-70 and CD38 yielded discordant results in 73 patients (29.0%), whereas 120 patients (47.6%) were concordantly negative and 59 patients (23.4%) were concordantly positive for ZAP-70 and CD38 expression. Median treatment-free survival times in patients whose leukemic cells were ZAP-70(+)CD38(+) was 30 months as compared to 130 months in patients with a ZAP-70(-)CD38(-) status. In patients with discordant ZAP-70/CD38 results, the median treatment-free survival time was 43 months. Thus, ZAP-70 and CD38 expression analyses provided complementary prognostic information identifying three patient subgroups with good, intermediate and poor prognosis. Over-representation of high-risk genomic aberrations such as 17p deletion or 11q deletion and distribution of the IgV(H) mutation status in B-CLL discordant for ZAP-70/CD38 pointed toward a distinct biologic background of the observed disease subgroups. This finding was also supported by microarray-based gene expression profiling in a subset of 35 patients. The expression of 37 genes differed significantly between the three groups defined by their expression of ZAP-70 and CD38, including genes that are involved in regulation of cell survival and chemotherapy resistance.

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