Background: Childhood pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a bone marrow (BM) derived disease, which often disseminates out of the BM cavity, where malignant cells to a variable degree can be found circulating in the peripheral blood (PB). Normal pre-B cells are absolutely dependent on BM stroma for survival and differentiation. It is not known whether transformed pre-B ALL cells retain any of this dependence, which possibly could impact on drug sensitivity or MRD measurements. Results: Pre-B ALL cells, highly purified by a novel method using surface expression of CD19 and immunoglobulin light chains, from BM and PB show a very high degree of similarity in gene expression patterns, with differential expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as a notable exception. In addition, the cell sorting procedure revealed that in 2 out of five investigated patients, a significant fraction of the malignant cells had matured beyond the pre-B cell stage. Conclusion: The transition of ALL cells from the BM into the circulation does not demand, or result in, major changes of gene expression pattern. This might indicate an independence of BM stroma on the part of transformed pre-B cells, which contrasts with that of their normal counterparts. © 2008 Hansson et al, licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
2008. Vol. 7