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Therapy-related acute lymphoblastic leukaemia with MLL rearrangements following DNA topoisomerase II inhibitors, an increasing problem: report on two new cases and review of the literature since 1992.

A highly increased risk of myelodysplasia (MDS) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is well established in patients previously treated for other malignancies with alkylating agents or topoisomerase II inhibitors. More recently, single cases of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), often presenting balanced translocations involving chromosome band 11q23, have been observed. We present two such cases with t(4;11)(q21;q23), one of whom had previously received only single-agent chemotherapy with 4-epi-doxorubicin. A review of the literature since 1992 including these two patients reveals a total of 23 cases of ALL or lymphoblastic lymphoma after chemotherapy presenting balanced translocations to 11q23. All 23 patients had previously received at least one topoisomerase II inhibitor, and in two patients 4-epi-doxorubicin had been administered as single-agent chemotherapy for breast cancer. The latency period to development of t-ALL was 24 months or less in 20 out of 22 cases. The MLL gene was found to be rearranged in 14 out of 14 cases, and in three out of six cases the breakpoint was at the telomeric part of the gene, as observed in most cases of AML following therapy with topoisomerase II inhibitors. These results indicate that patients with ALL and balanced translocations to chromosome band 11q23 following chemotherapy with topoisomerase II inhibitors in the future should be included with cases of MDS or AML in calculations of risk of leukaemia.

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