Characterization of acute promyelocytic leukemia cases lacking the classic t(15;17): results of the European Working Party. Groupe Français de Cytogénétique Hématologique, Groupe de Français d'Hematologie Cellulaire, UK Cancer Cytogenetics Group and BIOMED 1 European Community-Concerted Action "Molecular Cytogenetic Diagnosis in Haematological Malignancies"

Blood. 2000 Aug 15;96(4):1297-308.


Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is typified by the t(15;17), generating the PML-RAR alpha fusion and predicting a beneficial response to retinoids. However, a sizeable minority of APL cases lack the classic t(15;17), prompting the establishment of the European Working Party to further characterize this group. Such cases were referred to a workshop held in Monza, Italy and subjected to morphologic, cytogenetic, and molecular review, yielding 60 evaluable patients. In the majority (42 of 60), molecular analyses revealed underlying PML/RAR alpha rearrangements due to insertions (28 of 42) or more complex mechanisms, including 3-way and simple variant translocations (14 of 42). Metaphase fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) demonstrated that insertions most commonly led to formation of the PML-RAR alpha fusion gene on 15q. In 11 of 60 workshop patients, PLZF/RAR alpha rearrangements were identified, including 2 patients lacking the t(11;17)(q23;q21). In one case with a normal karyotype, FISH analysis revealed insertion of RAR alpha into 11q23, and PLZF-RAR alpha was the sole fusion gene formed. Two patients were found to have t(5;17), one with a diffuse nuclear NPM staining pattern and with NPM-RAR alpha and RAR alpha-NPM transcripts detected. In the other with an unbalanced der(5)t(5;17)(q13;q21) and a nucleolar NPM localization pattern, an NPM/RAR alpha rearrangement was excluded, and FISH revealed deletion of one RAR alpha allele. In the remaining 5 workshop patients, no evidence was found for a rearrangement of RAR alpha, indicating that in rare instances, alternative mechanisms could mediate the differentiation block that typifies this disease. This study highlights the importance of combining morphologic, cytogenetic, and molecular analyses for optimal management of APL patients and better understanding of the pathogenesis of the disease. (Blood. 2000;96:1297-1308)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 15
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 17
  • Female
  • Gene Rearrangement*
  • Genetic Markers*
  • Humans
  • Karyotyping
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / diagnosis*
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / genetics*
  • Translocation, Genetic


  • Genetic Markers
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • promyelocytic leukemia-retinoic acid receptor alpha fusion oncoprotein