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Variable Philadelphia Breakpoints And Potential Lineage Restriction Of Bcr Rearrangement In Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

LM Secker-Walker, HM Cooke, PJ Browett, CA Shippey, JD Norton, E Coustan-Smith, AV Hoffbrand

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Philadelphia (Ph1) chromosome breakpoints in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) are of two kinds: those within the breakpoint cluster region (bcr+), as in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), and those outside it (bcr-). These encode different c-abl messenger RNAs (mRNAs), p210 and p190, respectively. It has been suggested that one class of Ph+ ALL (bcr+) may be a variant of CML arising in a multipotent stem cell, the other (bcr-) de novo ALL initiated in a lymphoid-committed progenitor. Thirty-two cases of ALL (12 Ph1+, ten chromosomally normal, and ten non- mitotic cases) were investigated for bcr involvement. Breakpoints were found within five Ph1+ and in one normal case. There was no difference in clinical features, common ALL antigen (CALLA) positivity, cytogenetics, or response to treatment between the 6 bcr+ and 7 Ph1+ bcr- patients. Myeloid antigen expression was found in 2 bcr+ cases. Bcr rearrangement appeared to be restricted to the lymphoblastic component of marrow or blood in at least four bcr+ cases. In one case, separated myeloid and lymphoid cell fractions were both bcr+. Potential heterogeneity of the Ph1+ target cell, as seen in this study, may be more important in determining disease outcome than the precise location of the Ph breakpoint.