Erythroleukemia shares biological features and outcome with myelodysplastic syndromes with excess blasts: a rationale for its inclusion into future classifications of myelodysplastic syndromes

Mod Pathol. 2016 Dec;29(12):1541-1551. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2016.146. Epub 2016 Aug 26.


Erythroleukemia was considered an acute myeloid leukemia in the 2008 World Health Organization (WHO) classification and is defined by the presence of ≥50% bone marrow erythroblasts, having <20% bone marrow blasts from total nucleated cells but ≥20% bone marrow myeloblasts from nonerythroid cells. Erythroleukemia shares clinicopathologic features with myelodysplastic syndromes, especially with erythroid-predominant myelodysplastic syndromes (≥50% bone marrow erythroblasts). The upcoming WHO revision proposes to eliminate the nonerythroid blast cell count rule and to move erythroleukemia patients into the appropriate myelodysplastic syndrome category on the basis of the absolute blast cell count. We conducted a retrospective study of patients with de novo erythroleukemia and compared their clinico-biological features and outcome with those of de novo myelodysplastic syndromes, focusing on erythroid-predominant myelodysplastic syndromes. Median overall survival of 405 erythroid-predominant myelodysplastic syndromes without excess blasts was significantly longer than that observed in 57 erythroid-predominant refractory anemias with excess blasts-1 and in 59 erythroleukemias, but no significant difference was observed between erythroid-predominant refractory anemias with excess blasts-1 and erythroleukemias. In this subset of patients with ≥50% bone marrow erythroblasts and excess blasts, the presence of a high-risk karyotype defined by the International Prognostic Scoring System or by the Revised International Prognostic Scoring System was the main prognostic factor. In the same way, the survival of 459 refractory anemias with excess blasts-2, independently of having ≥20% bone marrow blasts from nonerythroid cells or not, was almost identical to the observed in 59 erythroleukemias. Interestingly, 11 low-blast count erythroleukemias with 5 to <10% bone marrow blasts from total nucleated cells showed similar survival than the rest of erythroleukemias. Our data suggest that de novo erythroleukemia is in the spectrum of myelodysplastic syndromes with excess blasts and support its inclusion into future classifications of myelodysplastic syndromes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Leukemia, Erythroblastic, Acute / classification*
  • Leukemia, Erythroblastic, Acute / mortality
  • Leukemia, Erythroblastic, Acute / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / mortality
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies