By flow cytometry and an extensive set of markers, we characterized leukemic cells from the blood and bone marrow of 68 symptomatic patients with hairy cell leukemia (HCL). Hairy cells identified in the large cell gate always expressed CD19, CD20, HLA-DR, CD45RA, and B-ly 7. Other markers were occasionally expressed, such as CD38, CD45RO, CD23, CD15, CD4, CD5, and CD10 (expressed on more than 20% of the hairy cells in 44%, 25%, 21%, 18%, 12%, 10%, and 5% of evaluated cases, respectively). During treatment with 2-chlorodeoxyadenosine (CdA), the median lymphocyte counts decreased from 2,000/microL to 300/microL. Flow cytometry was repeated at the nadir (n = 24) of lymphocyte counts, at 3 months (n = 46), at 6 months (n = 50), at 1 year (n = 39), and at 2 years (n = 12) after treatment. The initial decrease of CD8+ and CD20+ cells was greater than that of CD4+ and natural killer (NK) cells, leading to an increasing CD4/CD8 ratio. Median nadir values of CD4+, CD8+, CD20+, and NK cells were 128/microL, 78/microL, 10/microL, and 13/microL, respectively. The subsequent recovery was quicker for CD8+ and NK cells, leading to a normalization within 3 months, whereas CD20+ and CD4+ cells required 1 or 2 years to enter the normal range. The CD4/CD8 ratio thus decreased after the nadir and remained less than 1. CD45RA+ CD4 cells and CD45RA+/CD45RO+ double-positive cells were less affected by CdA. Activated T cells, ie, HLA-DR+ cells, rarely decreased below the normal range and often recovered with an overshoot. CD10+ cells increased in the bone marrow posttreatment as an indication of normal B-cell regeneration in 16 of 36 (44%) patients. The quick regeneration of certain lymphoid subsets might explain the lack of late infections in CdA-treated HCL patients.

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