Clinical implications of recurring chromosomal and associated molecular abnormalities in acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Semin Hematol. 2000 Oct;37(4):381-95. doi: 10.1016/s0037-1963(00)90018-0.


Comprehensive study of the major chromosomal/molecular abnormalities in children and adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has demonstrated prognostic utility for many of these anomalies, to the extent that cytogenetic and molecular genetic evaluations are now required for optimal clinical management of newly diagnosed cases. For example, the t(12;21)/TEL-AML1 (ETV6-CBFA2) or hyperdiploid karyotypes each identifies subgroups of children who can be cured with well-tolerated chemotherapy based primarily on drugs with few long-term toxicities, such as L-asparaginase and antimetabolites. By contrast, the t(1;19)/E2A-PBX1 identifies a subtype of ALL that responds much better to more intensive regimens that rely on genotoxic drugs. At the extreme end of the risk spectrum, the t(4;11)/MLL-AF4 and t(9;22)/BCR-ABL almost always confer a dire prognosis in both children and adults with ALL, who warrant high-dose chemotherapy and hematopoietic stem cell rescue to sustain or even induce first remission. Such chromosomal/molecular markers are being incorporated into risk classification schemes, as they convey prognostic information that cannot be gleaned from conventional risk factors such as immunophenotype, presenting age, and the initial circulating leukemic blast cell count. The most exciting prospect is the discovery of drugs that inhibit specific oncogenes, as illustrated by the BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitor STI-571.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Chromosome Disorders*
  • Humans
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / diagnosis*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology
  • Prognosis