We analyzed 12 MLL/ENL positive ALL patients consecutively diagnosed between 1999 and 2009. The MLL/ENL fusion was identified in 4/150 (2.6%), 8/993 (0.8%), and 0/70 of pediatric, adult, and elderly patients, respectively. Eight patients had a WBC count >50 × 10 9/L. Ten cases had an evaluable immunophenotyping. A B or T precursor ALL occurred in 7 and 3 patients, respectively. Eleven/12 patients (92%) achieved CR. At 48 months, overall survival and event-free survival rates were 73.3% and 67%, respectively. At CR, a parallel RT-PCR evaluation of the MLL/ENL expression was available in 5 cases. Of these latter, 2 tested MLL/ENL-negative and 3 positive. The minimal residual disease molecular monitoring showed that MLL/ENL status did not correlate with outcome. In fact, all the 2 PCR-negative and 1 of the 3 PCR-positive cases relapsed. Further, a MLL/ENL expression, not preceding a relapse, was detected several times during the follow-up of five long-survivors. In conclusion, also in adults, the MLL/ENL fusion identifies a rare leukemic entity with a favorable prognosis. The observed inconsistency between the clinical cure and the presence of detectable MLL/ENL transcript suggests the existence of a MLL/ENL-expressing "preleukemia" stem cells, similar to what demonstrated for the AML1/ETO-positive leukemia setting.
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