AIMS: To determine the characteristics of blastic transformation of idiopathic myelofibrosis. METHODS: The clinical and haematological features, as well as the morphological characteristics of blast cells, were analysed in nine adults with blast transformation. RESULTS: Most of the patients were male and had enlarged spleens and livers. Five of the patients had normal platelet counts, while all had pronounced anaemia and a moderate degree of leucocytosis. The duration of the acute phase was usually short: 16 (SD 8) weeks. Most myeloid cell lineages--granulocytic, monocytic, and megakaryocytic--were similarly distributed. One patient also had a hybrid (lymphoid-myeloid) phenotype. The morphological assessment of blast cells agreed with immunophenotyping in five out of the nine cases. The onset of the blastic phase was not related to previous treatment. CONCLUSIONS: A pluripotential stem cell with preferential myeloid commitment would be the target cell of blast transformation in idiopathic myelofibrosis. Our immunophenotypic data do not support the concept of a preferential association between megakaryocytic lineage and the acute transformation of idiopathic myelofibrosis. The absence of previous treatment in some cases suggests that this kind of evolution is part of the natural history of idiopathic myelofibrosis.
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