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Lymphocytosis Patients at Risk of Leukemia

Small but significant number will go on to develop lymphocytic leukemia

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia-phenotype cells are found in patients with lymphocytosis and in the general population, and a clinically significant number of them will go on to develop lymphocytic leukemia, according to a report published in the Aug. 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Andy C. Rawstron, Ph.D., of Leeds Teaching Hospital in Leeds, U.K., and colleagues conducted a study of 1,520 subjects aged 62 to 80 years with normal blood count and 2,228 lymphocytosis patients. They looked for the presence of monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL), and 185 subjects with chronic lymphocytic leukemia-phenotype MBL were followed up for a median of 6.7 years.

Among patients with normal blood count, 5.1 percent had monoclonal chronic lymphocytic leukemia-phenotype B cells, while the cells were detected in 13.9 percent of the subjects with lymphocytosis, the researchers report. Of the 185 patients who were followed-up, 51 (28 percent) went on to develop progressive lymphocytosis, 28 (15 percent) developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia and 13 (7 percent ) required chemotherapy, the report indicates. Although 62 patients (34 percent) died during follow-up, chronic lymphocytic leukemia was the cause of death in only four cases.

"The majority of deaths in persons with chronic lymphocytic leukemia-phenotype MBL are due to unrelated causes, but progressive chronic lymphocytic leukemia requiring chemotherapy will develop in a clinically significant proportion of subjects presenting with lymphocytosis," the authors write.

An author of the study reports a financial relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.

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