CML represents the most common of the chronic myeloproliferative disorders in childhood although it accounts for only 5% of childhood myeloid leukemia. Although CML has been diagnosed in very young children, most patients are aged 6 years or older. CML is a clonal panmyelopathy that involves all hematopoietic cell lineages. While the white blood cell (WBC) count can be extremely elevated, the bone marrow does not show increased numbers of leukemic blasts during the chronic phase of this disease. CML is nearly always characterized by the presence of the Philadelphia chromosome, a translocation between chromosomes 9 and 22 (i.e., t[9;22]). Other chronic myeloproliferative syndromes such as polycythemia vera and essential thrombocytosis are extremely rare in children.
JMML represents the most common myeloproliferative syndrome observed in young children. JMML occurs at a median age of 1.8 years and characteristically presents with hepatosplenomegaly, lymphadenopathy, fever, and skin rash along with an elevated WBC count and increased circulating monocytes. In addition, patients often have an elevated hemoglobin F, hypersensitivity of the leukemic cells to granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, and monosomy 7.
The transient myeloproliferative disorder (TMD) (also termed transient leukemia) observed in infants with Down syndrome represents a clonal expansion of myeloblasts that can be difficult to distinguish from AML. Most importantly, TMD spontaneously regresses in most cases within the first 3 months of life. TMD blasts are most commonly megakaryoblastic and have distinctive mutations involving the GATA1 gene.[4,5] TMD may occur in phenotypically normal infants with genetic mosaicism in the bone marrow for trisomy 21. While TMD is generally not characterized by cytogenetic abnormalities other than trisomy 21, the presence of additional cytogenetic findings may predict an increased risk for developing subsequent AML. Approximately 20% of infants with Down syndrome and TMD eventually develop AML, with most cases diagnosed within the first 3 years of life.[5,6] Early death from TMD-related complications occurs in 10% to 20% of affected children.[6,7] Infants with progressive organomegaly, visceral effusions, and laboratory evidence of progressive liver dysfunction are at a particularly high risk for early mortality.
The myelodysplastic syndromes in children represent a heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by ineffective hematopoiesis, impaired maturation of myeloid progenitors with dysplastic morphologic features, and cytopenias. Although the majority of patients have normocellular or hypercellular bone marrows without increased numbers of leukemic blasts, some patients may present with a very hypocellular bone marrow, making the distinction between severe aplastic anemia difficult.
There are genetic risks associated with the development of AML. There is a high concordance rate of AML in identical twins, which is believed to be in large part a result of shared circulation and the inability of one twin to reject leukemic cells from the other twin during fetal development.[8,9,10] There is an estimated twofold to fourfold risk of fraternal twins both developing leukemia up to about age 6 years, after which the risk is not significantly greater than that of the general population.[11,12] The development of AML has also been associated with a variety of predisposition syndromes that result from chromosomal imbalances or instabilities, defects in DNA repair, altered cytokine receptor or signal transduction pathway activation, as well as altered protein synthesis. (Refer to the following list of inherited and acquired genetic syndromes associated with myeloid malignancies.)