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Leukemias Resembling Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia, Microgranular Variant

Sanjai Nagendra MD, Howard Meyerson MD, Glenda Skallerud MT(ASCP), Nancy Rosenthal MD
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1309/KD1G-NUR1-J75P-HQ28 651-657 First published online: 1 April 2002


Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) should be distinguished from other subtypes of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) because of the increased risk of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and its response to arsenic compounds and retinoids. Some cases of AML seem morphologically similar to the microgranular variant of APL (French-American-British [FAB] AML-M3v) but lack the t(15;17). We evaluated 8 cases of APL-like leukemias for subtle morphologic, cytochemical, immunophenotypic, and cytogenetic differences compared with 5 cases of promyelocytic leukemia/retinoic receptor alpha (PML/RARalpha)–positive APL (FAB AML-M3v). We also evaluated both groups for the presence of DIC. No differences among the groups were noted in blast size, chromatin pattern, nuclear morphologic features, intensity of myeloperoxidase staining, or presence of Auer rods. Immunophenotypes were similar; both types of cases lacked CD34 and HLA-DR and were CD13+ and CD33+. Two cases of APL-like leukemias also were CD56+. DIC was present in 2 patients with M3v. Our study shows that there are no definitive morphologic, cytochemical, or immunophenotypic findings that can distinguish these cases from PML/RARalpha-positive APL.

Key Words:
  • Acute promyelocytic leukemia
  • All-trans-retinoic acid
  • Morphology
  • Immunophenotype
  • Karyotype