Multiple myeloma is considered a cancer of mature plasma cells. Recent studies, however, suggest the possible involvement of early B cells and the expression of myelomonocytic antigens by myeloma cells. Using flow cytometry, we searched for evidence of the expression of genes specific for different hematopoietic lineages by tumor cells in bone marrow aspirates from 27 patients with aneuploid multiple myeloma. In addition to features characteristic of myeloma cells, we found evidence of the frequent expression by myeloma tumor cells of the pre–B-cell antigen CALLA (common acute lymphocytic leukemia antigen) (in specimens from 58 percent of patients) and of megakaryocytic (88 percent), myelomonocytic (65 percent), and erythroid (39 percent) surface markers. The proportion of tumor cells expressing the different markers varied among patients, from 2 to 100 percent of recognizable tumor cells. We conclude that cells of multiple lineages are involved in myeloma — a finding that is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a common primary neoplastic lesion for all hematologic cancers. (N Engl J Med 1990; 322: 664–8.).
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