Multimarker phenotypic characterization of adult and childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia: An Italian multicentre study

R. Foa, L. Baldini, G. Cattoretti, M. Gobbi, F. Lauria, E. Madon, G. Masera, R. Miniero, P. Paolucci

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A multicentre phenotypic study was carried out in Italy combining conventional immunological techniques with monoclonal antibody (MoAb) analysis in 190 cases of adult and childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), in an attempt to define better the lineage relationship of the neoplastic cells. Of the 140 children evaluated, 79.3% expressed the common ALL (cALL) antigen (all analyses performed by MoAb), 11.4% were T-ALL and 9.3% were non-T, non-B, non-common ('null') ALL. The proportion of adult cALL cases was slightly lower (64% of the 50 cases studied) than that of childhood ALL, whilst the incidence of T-ALL was significantly higher in adults than in children (26% v. 11.4%, P <0.05). Because of the high proportion of cALL cases, the incidence of 'null' ALL in adult patients was similar (10%) to that of children, and lower than previously reported. The recognition of early pre-T-ALL cases (T1+, RFT2+, T10+, T6-, T11-, E-) contributed to the overall low proportion of 'null' ALL; prior to the use of MoAb, such cases would probably have been classified as undifferentiated acute leukaemia or 'null' ALL. The search for B-cell-related markers showed that the incidence of pre-B-ALL cases (cytoplasmic immunoglobulin positive cases) was similar in adults and in children (25.6% and 32%, respectively). Furthermore, the great majority of cases studied expressed the BA-1 antigen (92.8% of adults and 79% of children), whilst the BA-2 antigen was found in 53% of cases (tested only in children), confirming a hierarchy in the expression of B-cell related markers in cALL: BA-1, BA-2, CyIg. Several of the 'null' cases also expressed the BA-1 antigen on a variable proportion of cells, pointing to a possible B-cell origin of the blasts. This multicentre study shows that both in adult and in childhood ALL the combined use of conventional immunological markers and of a panel of MoAb allows identification of the cell lineage of the great majority of cases, thus reducing the number of 'null' ALL. Furthermore, these findings suggest that practically all cases of ALL belong either to the T or to the B cell compartment and that the neoplastic cells appear blocked at different levels along the lymphoid differentiation pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-259
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Haematology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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