De novo pure erythroid leukemia: refining the clinicopathologic and cytogenetic characteristics of a rare entity
Per the revised fourth edition World Health Organization classification of acute myeloid leukemia, pure erythroid leukemia is now the sole type of acute erythroid leukemia. The diagnosis of this rare entity is often challenging and the cytologic overlap with non-neoplastic (eg, megaloblastic anemia) and neoplastic entities (eg, other types of acute leukemia and non-hematopoietic malignancies) warrants a significant degree of clinical, laboratory, immunophenotypic, and genetic investigation. Given the limited number of reports of this rare and diagnostically challenging entity, we report detailed clinicopathologic characteristics from 15 patients, the largest series thus far, of primary de novo pure erythroid leukemia to provide further diagnostic insights into this entity and reveal strategies for making the diagnosis. We found that de novo pure erythroid leukemia is a disease of adults (median age 68 years), exhibits a striking male predominance, is universally associated with an abnormal karyotype and has an exceedingly poor overall median survival of 1.4 months. Given the general inability of immunophenotypic markers to discriminate neoplastic from non-neoplastic erythroid proliferations, key features identified in this study to help establish the diagnosis of pure erythroid leukemia and exclude mimickers include circulating pronormoblasts, clear-cut dysplasia in erythroid, granulocytic, and/or megakaryocytic lineage, utilization of a broad immunophenotypic panel, TP53 immunohistochemical positivity, and identification of a complex, often highly complex, karyotype. Given the gravity of a diagnosis of de novo pure erythroid leukemia, it should be rendered with utmost confidence.