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Typical and Atypical Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Differ Clinically and Immunophenotypically

John L. Frater MD, Karen F. McCarron MD, Jeffrey P. Hammel MS, Joel L. Shapiro MD, Michael L. Miller DO, Raymond R. Tubbs DO, James Pettay MT(ASCP), Eric D. Hsi MD
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1309/7Q1J-1AA8-DU4Q-PVLQ 655-664 First published online: 1 November 2001


We compared the features of 17 cases of atypical chronic lymphocytic leukemia (aCLL) with those of a clinical control group of 24 cases of CLL. Quantitative flow cytometric data, available for 12 cases, were compared with an immunophenotypic control group of 58 cases using a relative fluorescence index for CD5, CD23, CD79b, and surface immunoglobulin light chain (sIg).

Compared with the clinical control group, patients with aCLL had a higher mean WBC count and a lower platelet count. Patients with aCLL had a significantly higher probability of disease progression. Compared with an immunophenotypic control group of 58 CLL cases, 12 cases of aCLL demonstrated significantly higher expression of CD23. There was no significant difference in expression of sIg, CD79b, or CD5 between the groups. CD38 expression was noted in only 1 (9%) of 11 tested cases; 2 (18%) of 11 cases had trisomy 12. aCLL can be distinguished from typical CLL morphologically, clinically, and immunophenotypically. Atypical morphologic features in CLL seem to be a marker of aggressive clinical behavior.

Key Words:
  • Atypical chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Flow cytometry
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • Fluorescence in situ hybridization