The use of targeted sequencing and flow cytometry to identify patients with a clinically significant monocytosis

Catherine Cargo, Matthew Cullen, Jan Taylor, Mike Short, Paul Glover, Suzan Van Hoppe, Alex Smith, Paul Evans and Simon Crouch

Key points

  • Somatic mutations are detected at high frequency in patients with a monocytosis and are associated with significantly reduced survival.

  • In those without a WHO defined diagnosis, patients with a mutation have both laboratory and clinical features indistinguishable from CMML.


The diagnosis of chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia (CMML) remains centred on morphology, meaning the distinction from a reactive monocytosis is challenging. Mutational analysis and immunophenotyping have been proposed as potential tools for diagnosis however have not been formally assessed in combination. We aimed to investigate the clinical utility of these technologies by performing targeted sequencing, in parallel to current gold standard techniques, on consecutive samples referred for investigation of monocytosis over a 2-year period (n=283). Results were correlated with the morphological diagnosis and objective outcome measures including overall survival (OS) and longitudinal blood counts. Somatic mutations were detected in 79% of patients, being invariably identified in those with a confirmed diagnosis (99%) though also in 57% of patients with non-diagnostic BM features. The OS in non-diagnostic mutated patients was indistinguishable from those with CMML (p=0.118) and significantly worse than unmutated patients (p=0.0002). On multivariate analysis age, ASXL1, CBL, DNMT3A, NRAS & RUNX1 mutations retained significance. Furthermore, the presence of a mutation was associated with a progressive fall in haemoglobin/platelet levels and increasing monocyte counts compared with mutation negative patients. Of note, the immunophenotypic features of non-diagnostic mutated patients were comparable to CMML patients and the presence of aberrant CD56 was highly specific for detecting a mutation. Overall, somatic mutations are detected at high frequency in patients referred with a monocytosis irrespective of diagnosis. In those without a WHO defined diagnosis, the mutation spectrum, immunophenotypic features and OS are indistinguishable from CMML patients and these patients should be managed as such.

  • Submitted August 3, 2018.
  • Accepted December 18, 2018.