Four patients in whom a diagnosis of acute monocytic leukaemia (M5) was subsequently made presented with extramedullary disease clinically resembling lymphoma. In all patients histological sections were initially misinterpreted as showing malignant lymphoma or anaplastic carcinoma. The diagnosis of M5 leukaemia was subsequently made on the basis of morphological and cytochemical studies of peripheral blood and bone marrow. The histological diagnosis of the soft tissue lesions of M5 leukaemia (monocytic sarcoma) is difficult, although features such as abundant cytoplasm and the presence of some reniform nuclei are helpful. If there is no peripheral blood or bone marrow involvement and only fixed paraffin-embedded tissues are available, demonstration of lysozyme by an immunoperoxidase technique may confirm the diagnosis but results are not invariably positive. An early diagnosis of M5 leukaemia has therapeutic implications since the disease evolves through a progressive leukaemia phase and systemic therapy is essential.
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