Thirteen patients with acute leukemias that were difficult to classify by the use of cytochemical staining and terminal deoxyribonucleotidyl transferase (TdT) activity are reported. The phenotype of the leukemic cells was characterized by the presence of mature or early monocyte lineage antigens and intense Ia antigen expression detected by monoclonal antibodies, terminal deoxytransferase activity, and cytochemical features, including both Sudan black B and periodic acid- Schiff activity. The mean age of this group of patients was 60 years. Five patients had leukemia occurring after chemotherapy or radiotherapy of a prior malignant disease, and two patients had a refractory anemia prior to development of acute leukemia. These patients had a low response rate to chemotherapy. This series of leukemia appears to form a distinct nosologic entity, representing a leukemic transformation among early cells of the monocyte lineage, resulting in a predominant neoplastic cell that is less mature than either the French-American- British M4 acute myelomonocytic leukemia or M5 acute monoblastic leukemia. The presence of terminal deoxytransferase activity was interpreted as indicating the primitive state of the cells in the differentiation sequence, rather than as implying any significance with respect to lineage.

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