The DNA content of erythropoietic cells from 10 patients with refractory anaemia (RA) with megaloblastic changes, who subsequently developed acute non-lymphoblastic leukaemia (ANL), and from seven patients with megaloblastic marrow aspirates due to pernicious anaemia were compared by DNA image cytometry. The DNA distribution, the rate of aneuploid cells exceeding 5c (5cER), and the square deviation index of DNA values from the normal 2c-peak (2cDI) were recorded. Both variables were of diagnostic and prognostic importance for epithelial tumours, malignant lymphomas, and dysplastic lesions. A rate of 5cER greater than 0 was found in eight of 10 myelodysplastic, but in none of seven control cases. Hypodiploidy was equally pronounced in both groups of patients. The 5cE had the highest discriminative value of all variables calculated. The 2cDI was not significantly different in either group. In pernicious anaemia the 2cDI depended mainly on the percentage of S cells, reflecting the defect of DNA synthesis. In RA with megaloblastosis the 2cDI correlated with the percentage of G2 cells, reflecting G2 arrest. In the myelodysplastic group the 2cDI correlated positively with the length of time until ANL developed, indicating the prognostic relevance of 2cDI. Our findings show that in megaloblastic anaemia DNA image cytometry can distinguish myelodysplasia from pernicious anaemia and that it also provides prognostic information.
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