An Unusual Case of Prolymphocytic Leukemia Transformation in a Patient With Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

J Investig Med High Impact Case Rep. 2021 Jan-Dec:9:2324709621990767. doi: 10.1177/2324709621990767.


B-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (B-PLL) is a rare leukemia characterized by rapidly increasing leukocytosis with splenomegaly and lymphadenopathy. Treatment strategies are largely based on studies of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Antibodies against the cell surface protein CD20 are considered to be first-line therapy. A 76-year-old male with known CLL presented 2 weeks after starting chemoimmunotherapy for newly refractory CLL after failing ibrutinib therapy. White blood cell count was elevated at 226.7 × 103/µL. Fluorescent in situ hybridization analysis of a bone marrow specimen showed new development of complex cytogenetics. Flow cytometry revealed B cells appearing slightly dimmer on CD45 and brighter on CD20 compared with typical B-CLL suggestive of less mature lymphocyte forms. The patient was diagnosed with B-PLL and started on obinutuzumab and venetoclax with rapid normalization of white blood cells. This case recapitulates the challenges in diagnosing and treating B-PLL. Ibrutinib resistance is a growing area of study with several proposed mechanisms of acquired resistance. The pathogenesis of B-PLL is not completely understood, although mutations in MYC are presumed to play a role.

Keywords: chronic lymphocytic leukemia; ibrutinib resistance; prolymphocytic leukemia; tumor lysis syndrome.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell* / drug therapy
  • Leukemia, Prolymphocytic* / genetics
  • Male