The cells of 66 B-CLL stage 0 patients were analyzed using a large panel of monoclonal antibodies in order to better define the immunophenotype of B-CLL. The data were compared with the immunophenotypes of lymph node cells from 51 patients with diffuse B small cell lymphoma or leukaemia with lymph node enlargement. The most frequent immunophenotype of B-CLL stage 0 was SIgM(D)+ EmR+ CD5+ CD9+ CD21+ CD23+ CD35- CD38-. Among the lymphomas, EmR-positive and EmR-negative cases were identified. The vast majority of the EmR-positive cases usually showed the leukaemic pattern, immunophenotype and lymph node histology of B-CLL. The EmR-negative cases usually had immunophenotypes quite different from those of B-CLL and the histology of indented cell lymphoma (centrocytic or intermediate) or features of lymphoplasmacytoid/cytic lymphoma. More than 20% of EmR-positive cells proved to be the most important marker to distinguish B-CLL from other lymphocytic lymphomas. Indeed this was a sign of better prognosis. Lymphoplasmacytoid/cytic lymphomas were EmR-positive with the immunophenotype of B-CLL or EmR-negative with a definitely different immunological profile. This suggests two morphologically similar but biologically different subgroups of these diseases.
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