Necessity of flow cytometry assessment of circulating plasma cells and its connection with clinical characteristics of primary and secondary plasma cell leukaemia

Br J Haematol. 2021 Oct;195(1):95-107. doi: 10.1111/bjh.17713. Epub 2021 Sep 9.


Plasma cell leukaemia (PCL) is a rare and very aggressive plasma cell disorder. Preventing a dismal outcome of PCL requires early diagnosis with appropriate analytical tools. Therefore, the investigation of 33 patients with primary and secondary PCL was done when the quantity of circulating plasma cells (PCs) using flow cytometry (FC) and morphology assessment was evaluated. The phenotypic profile of the PCs was also analysed to determine if there is an association with clinical outcomes and to evaluate the prognostic value of analysed markers. Our results revealed that FC is an excellent method for identifying circulating PCs as a significantly higher number was identified by FC than by morphology (26·7% vs. 13·5%, P = 0·02). None of secondary PCL cases expressed CD19 or CD20. A low level of expression with similar positivity of CD27, CD28, CD81 and CD117 was found in both PCL groups. A decrease of CD44 expression was detected only in secondary PCL. Expression of CD56 was present in more than half of PCL cases as well as cytoplasmic nestin. A decreased level of platelets, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group score of 2-3 and lack of CD20+ PC were associated with a higher risk of death. FC could be incorporated in PCL diagnostics not only to determine the number of circulating PCs, but also to assess their phenotype profile and this information should be useful in patients' diagnosis and possible prognosis.

Keywords: flow cytometry; multiple myeloma; phenotype; plasma cell; plasma cell leukaemia; prognosis.