AIMS: To analyse the forward scatter/side scatter (FSC/SSC) distribution of acute myeloblastic leukaemia (AML) blast cells in order to assess whether it correlates with their morphology, immunophenotype, and clinical and biological disease characteristics. METHODS: FSC/SSC patterns were established upon taking into account the localisation of the residual T lymphocytes in the FSC/SSC dot plot as an internal biological standard. One hundred and seventy one newly diagnosed AML patients were analysed and five different FSC/SSC patterns were established. These five patterns could be grouped into two major categories taking into account the FSC/SSC distribution of normal cells in a bone marrow aspirate: immature patterns (1 and 2) and mature patterns (3, 4, and 5). These FSC/SSC patterns were correlated with different clinical and biological characteristics of AML patients. RESULTS: No significant associations were detected in relation to the clinical and haematological disease characteristics and the prognosis of these patients. By contrast there was a significant correlation between the FSC/SSC pattern of the AML blast cells and the FAB classification. An increased reactivity for the antigens associated with myeloid differentiation such as CD13, CD33, CD11b, CD15, CD14, CD4, CD56, and/or CD16 was detected among cases showing a mature FSC/SSC pattern (3, 4, and 5), both in the whole series and even within each of the FAB AML subtypes. By contrast, the reactivity for the CD34 precursor cell associated antigen was higher among those cases displaying an immature FSC/SSC pattern, this being observed even within each FAB subgroup. CONCLUSIONS: The FSC/SSC pattern distribution of AML blast cells not only provides an additional objective and reproductible system for the classification of these leukaemias but it may also represent a connection between the FAB morphological groups and the immunophenotypic classification of AML patients.
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