Clinical aspects of monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis.
BACKGROUND: Monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) is an asymptomatic precursor condition for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). It is defined by the presence of small clones of aberrant B cells in the peripheral blood, with a total B-cell count below the threshold for diagnosis of CLL (<5.0x10(9) cells/L). METHODS: The authors review current literature on the prevalence of MBL, and the clinical course of this CLL precursor condition, and recommended management for individuals with MBL. RESULTS: MBL occurs in approximately 4% to 5% of healthy adults. While most cases of CLL are preceded by MBL, progression to leukemia requiring CLL treatment occurs in only 1% to 2% of individuals with MBL per year. The absolute B-cell count is most strongly associated with progression, and patients with low-count MBL identified in population screening studies rarely develop CLL. Studies are ongoing to better define the relationship between MBL and CLL and to identify prognostic indicators that predict which patients will progress to CLL. Given their elevated risk of developing malignancy, individuals with clinical MBL should be monitored at least annually for progressive lymphocytosis and signs or symptoms of CLL. CONCLUSIONS: Many of the epidemiologic and genetic factors associated with MBL development and its progression to CLL have not yet been identified. However, ongoing studies by many research groups are aimed at answering these questions to facilitate management of individuals with this premalignant condition. In addition, active investigation of MBL will likely yield new insights into the biology of CLL, potentially identifying new therapeutic targets for this incurable disease.
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