Circulating Breast Carcinoma Cells Mimicking Therapy-Related Acute Myeloid Leukemia: A Potential Cytogenetic and Flow Cytometry Pitfall

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Circulating tumor cells are rare in peripheral blood smears. We report the case of a patient with circulating breast carcinoma cells resembling circulating myeloid blasts and provide a brief review of the literature. Peripheral blood smears and a bone marrow aspirate were examined morphologically and by flow cytometry and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Bone marrow histology in conjunction with immunohistochemical stains was also evaluated. A population of atypical cells with blast-like morphology was present in the peripheral blood. Flow cytometry showed a 9% population of CD45 dim positive, CD13 partial positive, and CD15 variably positive cells. Peripheral blood FISH analysis revealed deletion 7q, gain of 8q, and deletions 16q and 17q in 32.5% to 36% of 200 interphase cells analyzed. The bone marrow biopsy showed cohesive groups of cytokeratin AE1/AE3 positive cells. Our report demonstrates that circulating carcinoma cells can mimic a high-grade myeloid neoplasm morphologically and by flow cytometry and FISH analysis.

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