Flow cytometric (FCM) analysis of DNA content was performed on 82 lymph node and peripheral blood specimens from 46 patients with mycosis fungoides and the Sezary syndrome. Overall, 32 of the 46 patients (70%) had aneuploidy detected by FCM. Aneuploidy was present in 63% of the patients at the time of diagnosis before systemic therapy. In these patients, aneuploidy was frequently detected in blood and lymph node specimens scored as negative by cytology and histology, suggesting that unsuspected extracutaneous dissemination is present in many patients at the time of diagnosis. Direct comparison with Giemsa-banded cytogenetic studies showed an excellent correlation of FCM results and cytogenetic chromosome number. However, FCM frequently detected a larger fraction of aneuploid cells, and mitogen-stimulation studies suggest this is the result of preferential stimulation of normal lymphocytes by phytohemagglutinin. Thus, mitogens with a preference for malignant T cells, such as staphylococcal protein A, should be used for cytogenetic analysis of malignant T-cell disorders. At diagnosis, some histologically positive specimens contained only diploid cells by FCM and cytogenetic analysis. These patients had a more indolent clinical course than patients with aneuploidy Aneuploidy was detected by FCM as either wide G1 or as discrete aneuploid peaks. The presence of aneuploidy at any time in the clinical course implied a poor prognosis. Discrete hyperdiploid peaks were associated with large cell histology, early relapse, and aggressive clinical course. The development of hyperdiploidy at relapse was documented in four patients and was associated with a transition to large cell histology and a poor prognosis. Similar studies may elucidate differences in natural history and mechanism for transition in histology in other lymphomas and solid tumors.
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