The diagnosis of T-cell large granular lymphocytic leukemia (T-LGLL) is challenging because of overlapping immunophenotypic features with reactive T cells and limitations of T-cell clonality assays. We studied whether adding an antibody against T-cell receptor β constant region 1 (TRBC1) to a comprehensive flow cytometry panel could facilitate the diagnosis of T-LGLL.
We added TRBC1 antibody to the standard T-cell and natural killer (NK) cell panel to assess T-cell clonality in 56 T-LGLLs and 34 reactive lymphocytoses. In addition, 20 chronic lymphoproliferative disorder of NK cells (CLPD-NKs) and 10 reactive NK-cell lymphocytoses were analyzed.
Clonal T cells were detected in all available T-LGLLs by monotypic TRBC1 expression and clonal/equivocal T-cell receptor gene rearrangement (TCGR) studies, compared with only 27% of T-LGLLs by killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) restriction. Overall, 85% of T-LGLLs had a blood tumor burden greater than 500 cells/µL. Thirty-four reactive cases showed polytypic TRBC1 expression, except for 5 that revealed small T-cell clones of uncertain significance. All CLPD-NKs showed expected clonal KIR expression and negative TRBC1 expression.
Addition of TRBC1 antibody to the routine flow cytometry assay could replace the TCGR molecular study and KIR flow cytometric analysis to assess clonality, simplifying the diagnosis of T-LGLL.

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