Regulatory T-cells (Tregs) are increased in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and correlates with clinical and biological features of active/ progressive disease. However, little is known about their ability to predict the time to first treatment (TFT). We evaluated 75 patients with Rai stage 0 CLL, in whom the absolute number of Tregs was determined at diagnosis, and correlated to main clinical and biological features, as well as to the need of receiving any specific therapy during the course of the disease. After a median follow-up of 30 months, 12 patients (16%) required therapy at some time from the diagnosis. Treated patients showed a significant higher number of peripheral white blood cells and B-lymphocytes, platelet count, cases with unmutated immunoglobulin heavy chain status, and high-risk cytogenetic abnormalities, as well as lower hemoglobin values, than patients who did not need therapy. A greater number of circulating Tregs was detected in treated patients (P < 0.001). Multivariate analysis confirmed that the absolute number of Tregs was an independent predictor of TFT in these patients, the best predictive cut-off being 41/μL. These data show that the absolute Tregs cell number is able to identify Rai stage 0 CLL patients at higher risk of requiring therapy.
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