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Karyotypic studies of bone marrow were conducted in 79 previously untreated patients with multiple myeloma who received a standard programme of chemotherapy. An abnormal karyotype was observed in 46% of patients, virtually all showing multiple abnormalities consistent with a long period of preclinical clonal evolution. Patients with an abnormal pattern showed various aberrations with hyperdiploidy in 64%, pseudodiploidy in 5% and hypodiploidy in 31%. The number of chromosomes affected ranged between two to 19 (median 10), with at least one trisomy in 83%, one monosomy in 75%, and one translocation in 42% of patients. Lymphoma-like karyotypes were present in 17% of patients with an abnormality but were not associated with atypical clinical features, such as an extramedullary mass, leukaemia, or increased serum lactate dehydrogenase. Monosomy or deletion of chromosome 13 was present in 47% of patients with an abnormal pattern, who lived for a shorter duration (median 10 months) than patients with other abnormalities (median 34 months) or with diploidy (median 35 months). The cause of the short survival of patients with monosomy or deletion of chromosome 13 was not clear, but further studies on the relationship with specific oncogenes are indicated.