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Blood. 2013 May 30;121(22):4521-8. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-12-471698. Epub 2013 Apr 17.

Immunogenetics shows that not all MBL are equal: the larger the clone, the more similar to CLL.

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Hematology Department and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Unit, G. Papanicolaou Hospital, Thessaloniki, Greece.


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) -like monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) shares common immunophenotype and cytogenetic abnormalities with CLL, from which it is discriminated by a cutoff value of 5 × 10(9)/L circulating clonal B cells. However, the clonal size in MBL is extremely variable and allows discrimination of two distinct entities (high-count [HC] and low-count [LC]-MBL) based on a cutoff value of 0.5 × 10(9)/L clonal B cells. HC-MBL is associated with lymphocytosis and progresses to CLL requiring treatment at a rate of 1.1% per year, whereas LC-MBL is found in the general population only through high-sensitivity techniques and carries limited, if any, risk of progression. We performed an immunogenetic profiling of 333 cases with CLL-like MBL supplemented by detailed comparisons with CLL, focusing especially on CLL Rai stage 0 (CLL-0). LC- and HC-MBL had similar somatic hypermutation status, yet different IGHV gene repertoires and frequencies of B-cell receptor (BcR) stereotypy. In particular, stereotyped BcRs were infrequent in LC-MBL and were often not CLL specific. In contrast, HC-MBL exhibited clear immunogenetic similarities to CLL-0. These findings indicate that LC-MBL may not represent a true preleukemic condition, thus differing from HC-MBL/CLL-0 in which the identification of factors endowing malignant potential is strongly warranted.

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