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Diagnostic and prognostic importance of T-cell receptor gene analysis in patients with Sézary syndrome

Author(s): Fraser-Andrews EA, Russell-Jones R, Woolford AJ, Wolstencroft RA, Dean AJ, et al.



Sézary syndrome (SS) is characterized by erythroderma, peripheral lymphadenopathy, and circulating Sézary cells and is clinically heterogeneous.


T-cell receptor (TCR) gene analysis was performed using DNA extracted from peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 74 patients, and the results were correlated with a variety of other diagnostic parameters and patient outcomes.


Two groups were identified: 66 patients with clonal TCR gene rearrangement (clonal patients) detected with Southern blot analysis and/or polymerase chain reaction/single-strand conformational polymorphism analysis and 8 patients with no clonal rearrangement detected (nonclonal patients) using either technique. Clonal patients were compared with nonclonal patients. The following median blood parameters were significantly greater in the clonal group: total white cell count (13.7 109/L vs. 9.6 109/L), lymphocyte count (4.9 109/L vs. 2.2 109/L), absolute Sézary count (3.22 109/L vs. 0.99 109/L), CD4 count (3.17 109/L vs. 1.36 109/L), and CD4:CD8 ratio (15.86 vs. 3.21). An expanded population of T-cells of a specific TCR variable β subset was detected in 7 of 36 clonal patients and in 1 of 4 nonclonal patients. Cytogenetic analysis of peripheral blood from 1 nonclonal patient and 6 clonal patients was normal. The median survival from the time of diagnosis was 45 months in the clonal group, and 40 of 49 deaths were cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL)-related, whereas 3 deaths in the nonclonal group were unrelated to CTCL (P < 0.01; log-rank test). Multivariate proportional hazards analysis showed that the absolute Sézary count and lymph node status were independent prognostic variables (P = 0.016 and P = 0.036, respectively).


TCR gene analysis defines a distinct clinicopathologic group of patients with SS. Clonal patients have a poor prognosis and are likely to die from leukemia/lymphoma, whereas nonclonal patients may have a reactive, inflammatory T-cell disorder. The authors suggest that the definitive diagnostic criteria for patients with SS should include the presence of a clonal TCR gene rearrangement. Cancer 2001;92:1745–52. © 2001 American Cancer Society.

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