Nine cases of early erythroblastic leukemia, unidentified by usual criteria, have been diagnosed using a panel of antibodies. Three cases arose in patients with Down's syndrome, one in a patient with therapy- related leukemia, and four patients were in blast crisis of chronic myeloid leukemia; only one case arose de novo. Blast cells could be assigned to two main stages of erythroid differentiation: presence of all erythroid-specific proteins in two patients, a phenotype corresponding to an immature erythroblast; absence of the erythroid markers such as glycophorin A and spectrin in the presence of carbonic anhydrase isoenzyme I, ABH group antigens, and the antigen defined by FA6 152 monoclonal antibody in six patients, a phenotype related to a late erythroid progenitor (CFU-E). One patient had an intermediate phenotype. All patients except one demonstrated a megakaryocytic component. In three patients, chromosomal abnormalities were present, detected both in blasts and in erythroid colonies. In conclusion, these findings indicate that most “cryptic erythroleukemias” are blocked at a “CFU-E-like” stage of differentiation, it may be a frequent event in Down's syndrome and chronic myeloid leukemia, and these erythroleukemias are phenotypically heterogeneous.

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