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Abstract

To determine the biologic significance of the structural rearrangements of the long arm of chromosome 6(6q) in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at diagnosis, we studied 412 consecutive children whose leukemic cell chromosomes had been completely banded and identified 45 (11%) children with this abnormality. The 45 cases were divided into del(6q) only (n = 11), del(6q) and numerical abnormalities (n = 4), del(6q) and structural abnormalities (n = 23), and 6q translocations (n = 7). The breakpoints of del(6q) were subgrouped: del(6)(q15q21) in 11 cases, del(6) (q13q21) in six, del(6)(q21q23) in four, del(6)(q15) in four, del(6)(q15q23) in three, and other deletions in 10 cases. Notably, all these deletions encompassed the 6q21 band, suggesting that this might be the locus of a recessive tumor suppressor gene, the absence of which contributes to malignant transformation or proliferation. Among the seven children with 6q translocations, a previously unidentified nonrandom translocation, t(6;12)(q21;p13) was noted in two cases with an early pre-B immunophenotype. Clinical features and event-free survival were similar among children with or without 6q abnormalities. Overall, children with 6q abnormalities were less likely than those without the abnormality to have a pre-B immunophenotype (P = .03). T- cell immunophenotypes were equally represented in cases with or without 6q abnormalities. However, all four children with del(6q) and a 12p abnormality had early pre-B ALL and all three children with del(6q) and a 9p abnormality had a T-cell immunophenotype. The lack of specificity for a particular immunophenotype may imply that the gene or genes affected by 6q abnormalities are broadly active in the multistep process of lymphoid leukemogenesis. The relatively high frequency of microscopically visible del(6q) indicates the need for molecular studies to identify cases with submicroscopic deletions.