Identification of early B cell precursors (stage 1 and 2 hematogones) in the peripheral blood

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Differentiating malignant B-lymphoblasts from early benign B cell precursors (hematogones) is a vital component of the diagnosis of B-lymphoblastic leukaemia. It has been previously reported that only late-stage B cell precursors circulate in the peripheral blood. Consequently, flow cytometric detection of cells with immunophenotypic findings similar to earlier stage precursors in the peripheral blood justifiably raises concern for involvement by B-lymphoblastic leukaemia. We report here, however, that benign early B cell precursors can indeed be detected in the peripheral blood, thus complicating the interpretation of flow cytometric findings derived from these sample types. A retrospective search of our collective databases identified 13 cases containing circulating early stage B cell precursors. The patients ranged in age from 15 days to 85 years old. All positive cases demonstrated that the earlier B cell precursors were associated with later stage precursors, a finding that could help differentiate these cells from B-lymphoblastic leukaemia.

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