The diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in asymptomatic patients has historically been based on documenting a characteristic lymphocyte clone and the presence of lymphocytosis. There are minimal data regarding which lymphocyte parameter (absolute lymphocyte count [ALC] or B-cell count) and what threshold should be used for diagnosis. We analyzed the relationship of ALC and B-cell count with clinical outcome in 459 patients with a clonal population of CLL phenotype to determine (1) whether the CLL diagnosis should be based on ALC or B-cell count, (2) what lymphocyte threshold should be used for diagnosis, and (3) whether any lymphocyte count has independent prognostic value after accounting for biologic/molecular prognostic markers. B-cell count and ALC had similar value for predicting treatment-free survival (TFS) and overall survival as continuous variables, but as binary factors, a B-cell threshold of 11 × 109/L best predicted survival. B-cell count remained an independent predictor of TFS after controlling for ZAP-70, IGHV, CD38, or fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) results (all P < .001). These analyses support basing the diagnosis of CLL on Bcell count and retaining the size of the B-cell count in the diagnostic criteria. Using clinically relevant criteria to distinguish between monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) and CLL could minimize patient distress caused by labeling asymptomatic people at low risk for adverse clinical consequences as having CLL.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology