In a four year span, between 1983 and 1987, 215 bone marrow and cell culture samples from 125 myeloma patients were immunotyped and coexpression of myelomonocytic and plasma cell antigens occurred in 16 (13%). We employed both immunohistochemical and flow cytometry methods including coplots and double labelling. Three types of myeloma cases were found: (1) those with isolated myeloid antigen coexpression, usually Leu M1 or esterase (BE, CE) positive (11 cases); (2) those with multiple myeloid antigens (Leu M1, M3, M5, MY7, BE, CE) (four cases); and (3) one case beginning as 1 and ending as 2. Isolated myeloid antigen expression was generally associated with typical features of myeloma with survival close to the anticipated median (33 months), while multiple myeloid antigen expression was associated with more aggressive disease and shorter survival duration (median survival 16 months). The latter subgroup also had other poor prognostic factors including high labelling index and common acute lymphoblastic leukemia antigen (CALLA) positivity. Other features found overall were frequent abnormal karyotypes (seven of 12 abnormal) and coexpressed IgA (eight of 16); all IgA+ cases also coexpressed Leu M1. We conclude that there is an unusual and unexpected predilection for coexpression of myelomonocytic antigens in myeloma cells. The reasons are not immediately obvious. Whether the coexpression indicates that myeloma cells truly have latent multilineage potential or just aberrantly coexpress other hematopoietic antigens as a manifestation of malignancy remains to be explained. However, a cell line established from the bone marrow of one patient is a valuable scientific tool allowing detailed analysis of these questions.

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