Although ~50% of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients have a normal diploid karyotype by conventional cytogenetics at diagnosis, this patient subset has a variable disease course and outcome. Aberrant overexpression of the p53 protein is usually associated with TP53 alterations and a complex karyotype, but the prevalence and impact of p53 overexpression in AML with diploid cytogenetics is unknown. We examined 100 newly diagnosed AML patients to evaluate the impact of p53 expression status quantified in bone marrow core biopsy samples using immunohistochemistry and computer-assisted image analysis. A total of 24 patients had p53 overexpression defined as 3+ staining intensity in ≥5% of cells; this finding correlated with lower platelet counts (P =.002), absence of CD34 expression in blasts (P =.009), higher bone marrow blast counts (P =.04), and a higher frequency of FLT3 internal tandem duplication (P =.007). Overexpression of p53 independently predicted for shorter leukemia-free survival in patients who underwent allogeneic stem cell transplantation by univariate (P =.021) and multivariate analyses (P =.004). There was no correlation between MDM2 and p53 protein expression in this cohort. We conclude that p53 expression evaluated by immunohistochemistry in bone marrow biopsy specimens at the time of AML diagnosis may indicate distinct clinical characteristics in patients with normal diploid cytogenetics and is a potentially valuable tool that can enhance risk-stratification.
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