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Blood. 1998 Jul 15;92(2):596-9.

The reliability and specificity of c-kit for the diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemias and undifferentiated leukemias. The European Group for the Immunological Classification of Leukemias (EGIL).

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  • 1GEIL-Laboratoire d'Immunologie, Faculte de Medicine, Nancy, France.


We document findings on c-kit (CD117) expression in 1,937 pediatric and adult de novo acute leukemia cases, diagnosed in five single European centers. All cases were well characterized as to the morphologic, cytochemical, and immunologic features, according to the European Group for the Immunological Classification of Leukemias (EGIL). The cases included 1,103 acute myeloid leukemia (AML), 819 acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), 11 biphenotypic acute leukemia (BAL), and 4 undifferentiated (AUL). c-kit was expressed in 741 (67%) AML cases, regardless of the French-American-British (FAB) subtype, one third of BAL, all four AUL, but only in 34 (4%) of ALL cases. The minority of c-kit+ ALL cases were classified as: T-cell lineage (two thirds), mainly pro-T-ALL or T-I, and B lineage (one third); cells from 62% of these ALL cases coexpressed other myeloid markers (CD13, CD33, or both). There were no differences in the frequency of c-kit+ AML or ALL cases according to age being similar in the adult and pediatric groups. Our findings demonstrate that c-kit is a reliable and specific marker to detect leukemia cells committed to the myeloid lineage, and therefore should be included in a routine basis for the diagnosis of acute leukemias to demonstrate myeloid commitment of the blasts. c-kit expression should score higher, at least one point, in the system currently applied to the diagnosis of BAL, as its myeloid specificity is greater than CD13 and CD33. Findings in ALL and AUL suggest that c-kit identifies a subgroup of cases, which may correspond to leukemias either arising from early prothymocytes and/or early hematopoietic cells, both able to differentiate to the lymphoid and myeloid pathways.

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