Lineage switch in childhood acute leukemia: An unusual event with poor outcome


  • Conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Although rarely, switches between lymphoid and myeloid lineages may occur during treatment of acute leukemias (AL). Correct diagnosis relies upon confirmation by immunophenotyping of the lineage conversion and certification that the same cytogenetic/molecular alterations remain despite the phenotypic changes. From a total of 1,482 AL pediatric patients, we report nine cases of lineage conversion (0.6%), seven from lymphoid (four Pro-B, two Pre-B, one Common) to myelo-monocytic, and two from myeloid (bilineal, with myeloid predominance) to Pro-B. Eight patients were infants. Switches were suggested by morphology and confirmed with a median of 15 days (range: 8 days-6 months) from initiation of therapy. Of note, in five cases switches occurred before day 15. Stability of the clonal abnormalities was assessed by cytogenetic, RT-PCR/Ig-TCR rearrangement studies in all patients. Abnormalities in 11q23/MLL gene were detected in seven cases. Treatment schedules were ALL (two pts), Interfant-99 (five pts) and AML (two pts) protocols. Despite changing chemotherapy according to the new lineage, all patients died. Our findings support the association of lineage switches with MLL gene alterations and the involvement of a common lymphoid B-myeloid precursor. New therapies should be designed to address these rare cases. Possible mechanisms implicated are discussed. Am. J. Hematol., 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.