Distinguishing hairy cell leukemia variant from hairy cell leukemia: development and validation of diagnostic criteria

Leuk Res. 2013 Apr;37(4):401-409. doi: 10.1016/j.leukres.2012.11.021. Epub 2013 Jan 22.


Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) and hairy cell leukemia-variant (HCL-v) are rare diseases with overlapping clinico-pathological features. We performed flow cytometry analysis (FCM) of 213 cases (169 HCL, 35 HCL-v, 9 splenic marginal zone lymphoma (SMZL)), correlating results with available corresponding clinical and morphological data. FCM distinguished HCL-v from HCL and SMZL based solely upon expression of four antigens (CD11c, CD25, CD103, CD123) combined with B-cell markers (CD19, CD20, CD22). HCL-v expressed bright CD20, bright CD22, CD11c(100%), CD103(100%), dim(40%) or negative(60%) CD123, and uniformly lacked CD25(100%). HCL expressed bright CD20, bright CD22, bright CD11c, bright CD25, CD103, and bright homogeneous CD123(100%). Aberrant expression of CD5(2%/3%), CD10(12%/3%), CD23(21%/11%), CD38(14%/0%), CD2(2%/9%), CD4(0.5%/0%) and CD13(0.5%/3%), was observed in HCL/HCL-v, respectively. SMZL cases were CD103(-) and CD123(-) except for one case with dim CD123. HCL showed significantly greater marrow infiltration over HCL-v. Prominent nucleoli were observed in most HCL-v but rarely in HCL. A third of HCL and HCL-v marrows were hypocellular or aplastic-appearing. Detection of BRAFV600E mutation and annexin A1 were examined in a subset of cases to further validate FCM diagnostic criteria. HCL-v was negative for both annexin A1 (100%) and BRAFV600E mutation (100%), in contrast to HCL (74% positive for annexin A1; 76% positive for BRAFV600E mutation). HCL-v is resistant to traditional HCL therapy, making accurate diagnosis imperative. We have defined FCM criteria for differentiation of HCL-v from HCL and SMZL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Leukemia, Hairy Cell / diagnosis
  • Leukemia, Hairy Cell / pathology*