• multiple myeloma;
  • flow cytometry;
  • aneuploidy;
  • DNA content;
  • prognosis

In this study the incidence of DNA aneuploidy in a large series of untreated multiple myeloma (MM) patients was assessed in order to determine its clinical and prognostic significance. A total of 156 MM patients were included in the study. DNA measurements were performed in all cases at diagnosis using two different flow cytometry methods: (1) propidium iodide (PI) staining on isolated nuclei, and (2) CD38/PI double staining on whole cells. The DNA ploidy status was correlated with the most relevant clinical and haematological disease characteristics. From the 156 cases analysed, 91 (58%) were aneuploid (56% hyperdiploid and 2% hypodiploid). The correlation between the two techniques on the detection of DNA aneuploidy was excellent, although CD38/PI double staining would be preferable in cases with <5% of DNA aneuploid plasma cells (PC). Upon comparing the clinical and haematological disease characteristics of hyperdiploid versus diploid cases, the former group was characterized by a lower age, reduced incidence of anaemia, lower 02M levels, higher proliferative activity within the residual normal haemopoietic cells, increased expression of CD 5 6 antigen in PC, and higher proportion of PB CD4+ T cells. In contrast, diploid cases had a higher expression of the CD10, CD20 and CD15 antigens and greater numbers of PB CD56+CD3 NK cells (P < 0–05). Circulating PC were identified in six cases, all being diploid. Overall survival was significantly longer in hyperdiploid compared to diploid MM (P = 0–02).