Alteration of the TAL1 locus is the most common nonrandom genetic defect in childhood T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). To determine if rearrangements of the TAL1 proto-oncogene confer a distinct leukemic phenotype, we studied leukemic peripheral blood or bone marrow samples from 182 children with newly diagnosed T-ALL enrolled on Pediatric Oncology Group treatment protocols. Forty-eight (26%) of the samples had a local rearrangement of the TAL1 locus. Demographic and clinical features were compared for patient subgroups with and without TAL1 rearrangements. The only clinical correlates that were significantly associated with TAL1 gene rearrangements were higher white blood cell count (P = .017) and higher hemoglobin (P = .007) at diagnosis. Immunophenotypically, samples with altered TAL1 were more likely to be CD2+ (P = .001) and lack CD10 (cALLa) expression (P = .007) than those without the rearrangement. There was a trend toward improved event-free survival (EFS) in patients with TAL1 rearrangements (4-year EFS was 44% +/- 7% for patients without the rearrangements v 59% +/- 11% for those with rearrangements), but the difference was not significant (P = .34). The role of TAL1 in leukemogenesis has yet to be clearly defined, and the prognostic significance of TAL1 gene rearrangements in T-ALL deserves further study.

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