Morphology of acute promyelocytic leukemia with cytogenetic or molecular evidence for the diagnosis: characterization of additional microgranular variants.
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Early diagnosis of t(15;17) acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is essential because of the associated disseminated intravascular coagulation and the unique response of the disease to all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) therapy. Early diagnosis depends primarily on morphological recognition. The French-American-British (FAB) classification, however, does not describe all morphological variations that occur in APL. In 25 cases with evidence of APL confirmed by cytogenetic and/or molecular analysis, we found a heterogeneous morphological group. The most common form of APL was heterogeneous and consisted of various combinations of cells in which hypergranular cells and some cells with multiple Auer rods were obvious. In some cases, one cell predominated. This led to the description of five subcategories. These included the classical FAB M3 with hypergranular cells and multiple Auer rods; the FAB variant with hypogranular bilobed cells; the basophilic cell type of McKenna et al. [Br. J. Haematol 50:201, 1982]; and two additional subtypes, one consisting of differentiated promyelocytes and a few blast cells (M2-like), and the other consisting largely of blast cells and a few early promyelocytes (M1-like). Immunophenotyping revealed a pattern of CD33 and/or CD13 positivity, and CD14 and HLA-DR negativity in 96% of cases. CD2 was positive in the FAB variant and in the subtype with basophilic cells, but negative with other subtypes. Three out of five cases with basophilic cell predominance [McKenna et al.: Br J Haematol 50:201, 1982], and one out of two M2-like cases, responded to ATRA therapy. Awareness of the heterogeneity and the atypical morphologic subtypes found in t(15;17) APL will contribute to improved recognition and early institution of ATRA therapy.
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