Cancer, Leukemia Cutis


Article Author:
Meghana Parsi
Mylene Go


Article Editor:
Aadil Ahmed


Editors In Chief:
Stephen Leslie
Karim Hamawy


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
Trevor Nezwek
Radia Jamil
Patrick Le
Anoosh Zafar Gondal
Saad Nazir
William Gossman
Hassam Zulfiqar
Steve Bhimji
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Sarosh Vaqar
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes
Tehmina Warsi


Updated:
5/5/2019 11:22:10 AM

Introduction

Leukemia cutis characteristically demonstrates the infiltration of the skin by neoplastic leukocytes.[1]  While the extramedullary collection of leukemic cells is generally regarded as myeloid sarcoma (previously chloroma/granulocytic sarcoma), leukemia cutis is a generic term to describe specific cutaneous involvement. Although any subtype of leukemia can involve the skin, the most common types seen, in clinical practice, are chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with monocytic or myelomonocytic morphology.[2] Involvement by chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is extremely rare and may be indicative of blast phase. Patients usually have a prior diagnosis of systemic leukemia or myelodysplasia. However, cutaneous lesions may present as the primary manifestation of systemic disease in rare cases. Cutaneous involvement is generally indicative of advanced disease and should stipulate investigation of other body sites for extramedullary involvement.

Subtypes of Leukemia Involving Skin:

Myeloid/monocytic disorders:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia (monocytic or myelomonocytic) (AML)
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia
  • Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (transformation)
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (transformation)

Lymphoproliferative disorders:

  • B- cell leukemia/lymphomas
    • Precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia
    • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
    • Hairy cell leukemia
  • T- cell leukemia/lymphomas
    • Precursor T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia
    • Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL)
    • T- cell prolymphocytic leukemia

Etiology

Both genetic and environmental components are involved in the etiology of any leukemia and are responsible for maturation arrest and clonal expansion of precursor cells. While the neoplastic cells carry the genetic abnormality of underlying leukemia, aneuploidy of chromosome 8, chromosome 3 translocations and t(6;9) are particularly notable in patients with leukemia cutis.[3] Environmental risk factors for leukemia cutis are same as for developing any systemic leukemia and include benzene, ionizing radiation, alkylating and viral agents. Use of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia may increase the risk of extramedullary involvement including the skin.[4]

Epidemiology

Leukemia cutis is rare, and the exact data on incidence and demographic predilections do not exist. However, children with congenital leukemia are prone to develop leukemia cutis, ranging from 25 to 30% of cases.[5] Although the highest rate of leukemia cutis occurs in patients with adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL), the incidence of this leukemia is quite rare. Thus the most common subtypes seen in clinical practice are AML and CLL involving 13% and 8% of total cases, respectively. 

Majority of skin lesions occur in patients already diagnosed with leukemia (55 to 77%), cutaneous lesions may appear at the presentation of systemic leukemia (23 to 44%), or even precede the development of leukemia in the peripheral blood and/or bone marrow in 2 to 3% of cases.[3] This latter condition termed as "aleukemic" cutis eventually develops AML.[6][7][8]

Pathophysiology

The pathophysiology of leukemia cutis involves the migration of leukemic cells into the skin. The exact mechanism is unknown, but recent molecular analysis is beginning to provide more information on cell-cell interaction and the role of adhesion molecules. Mechanisms involving various chemokines and the molecular expression on leukemic cells mediating the migration of leukemic cells to the skin via skin-selective homing processes are the proposed etiology.[9][10]

Histopathology

Histology of skin biopsy shows nodular or diffuse infiltrates of leukemic cells in the dermis and/or subcutaneous tissue. These lesions spare the epidermis along with a narrow band of uninvolved upper dermis known as Grenz zone. However T-cell leukemia including ATLL may show epidermotropism. The size of cells varies depending on the subtype of leukemia. CLL cells are smaller, mature-appearing cells that may show perivascular, periadnexal, or nodular distribution. Myeloid leukemia cells are larger with high nuclear to cytoplasmic ratio, often prominent nucleoli and involving dermis and subcutis in a diffuse pattern. Immunohistochemical staining and history remain essential to distinguish reactive from neoplastic infiltrates.

History and Physical

The clinical and morphological findings of leukemia cutis vary widely. These lesions may be localized or disseminated and may occur alone or in combination on any site of the skin.[11] Leukemia cutis may also present as diffuse purpura and is one of the causes of blueberry muffin syndrome in infants.

 Common findings:

  • Papules and nodules (60%) - nodules are typically firm, or rubbery in consistency
  • Plaques  

Rare findings (combined appearance and transitions between individual morphologies are possible)

  • Erythema
  • Erythroderma
  • Ulcer
  • Blisters
  • Colors: Red, brown, yellow, blue, gray, hemorrhagic, purpuric, deep lesions may have skin colored surfaces

Distribution:

  • No predilection sites - head, trunk, and extremities are equally affected
  • Singular, grouped or disseminated
  • Exanthematous spread

Involvement of oral mucosa:

  • Gingival hyperplasia
  • Nodules, ulcers

Evaluation

In the absence of established systemic leukemia, confirming the diagnosis of suspected cases of leukemia cutis proves to be challenging. In all cases, a judicious correlation between clinical features, histopathology, and immunophenotyping is necessary.

A complete blood count and peripheral smear must be performed to assess abnormalities in cell counts (cytopenias generally present) and evidence of circulating leukemic cells. A bone marrow biopsy is imperative for the definitive diagnosis of systemic leukemia. In addition to immunohistochemistry, biopsy samples should have cytogenetics and flow cytometry studies. 

A skin biopsy and immunophenotyping must be performed in all suspected patients, regardless of prior leukemia history as transformation or development of different leukemia may occur. Identification of leukemia can be performed based on CD markers. Common CD markers associated with each of the leukemias are below in table 1.

Other appropriate tests needed may include coagulation studies, complete metabolic profile, liver and kidney function tests, uric acid and lactate dehydrogenase. If the patient develops high unrelenting fevers, especially during the course of treatment, an infectious workup is necessary as these patients are immunocompromised and prone to infections. 

A thorough search for other sites of systemic involvement is crucial. Imaging studies can invariably help to determine the extent of systemic involvement.

Treatment / Management

Treatment of leukemia cutis points toward addressing underlying leukemia using aggressive systemic chemotherapy. Systemic chemotherapy for leukemia depends on cancer subtype. Usually, remission of hematological abnormalities occurs concurrently with complete or partial resolution of cutaneous lesions. While chemotherapy is the mainstay of treatment, radiation therapy, in the form of electron beam therapy may be used for refractory or palliative cases.[12][13]

Differential Diagnosis

The differential diagnosis of leukemia cutis is broad, as a wide range of neoplastic, inflammatory, and infectious skin lesions can mimic the lesions both clinically and on histologic examination.[14][15]

Some of the common diseases that may appear similar to leukemia cutis lesions are as follows. One should keep in mind that the list is not exhaustive and these entities may appear in conjunction with leukemia cutis. 

  • Lymphoma and pseudolymphoma
  • Metastatic solid tumors
  • Pyoderma gangrenosum
  • Vasculitis
  • Drug reactions
  • Urticaria
  • Viral exanthem
  • Hidradenitis
  • Erythema multiforme
  • Erythema nodosum
  • Infections due to immune suppression: cellulitis, herpes zoster, herpes simplex
  • Graft vs. host disease

Toxicity and Side Effect Management

Patients on chemotherapy should be monitored for infections and receive prophylaxis for common infectious agents.

Medical Oncology

Initial treatment of myeloid leukemia is based on age, history of prior myelodysplastic syndrome or cytotoxic chemotherapy and performance status. The use of cytogenetics and molecular markers gained through next-generation sequencing is necessary for risk stratification and can guide upfront frontline therapy. Several molecular markers such as FLT3, NPM1, CEBPA, IDH, And other mutations are important for risk assessment. However, although karyotyping and molecular markers are robust predictors of disease-free survival, induction chemotherapy is often initiated before this information is available. Standard induction regimens have as their basis the backbone of cytarabine in combination with anthracycline popularly known as the 7+3 regimen. The therapy intends to reduce the leukemic burden and restore normal hematopoiesis. For people that are found to be FLT3 mutated, midostaurin, an FLT3 inhibitor to both ITD and TKD mutations, is now added to standard chemotherapy as part of frontline treatment based on the RATIFY Alliance Trial.

Prognosis

Leukemia cutis is regarded as a systemic manifestation of underlying leukemia and generally carries an unfavorable prognosis.[16]

While some patients can experience remission of skin lesions after systemic chemotherapy, a diagnosis of leukemia cutis strongly correlates with additional sites of extramedullary involvement, with meninges being the most common site of spread (40%).[8]

A 2-year follow-up in AML patients showed a 6% survival rate with skin involvement vs. 30% in those without skin infiltrates.[17]

Complications

Many of the complications are the result of underlying leukemia or its treatment, and not specifically as a result of cutaneous skin lesions.

  • Leukemia patients are prone to a variety of opportunistic infections due to pancytopenia
  • Bleeding is a result of thrombocytopenia or as a result of erosion of skin lesions
  • Reactions to chemotherapy
  • Mass effect if leukemia cutis manifests as a tumor 

Consultations

  • A dermatologist is typically the primary clinician sought to identify and differentiate various skin lesions
  • A hematologist-oncologist is generally on board for the management of underlying leukemia
  • A bone marrow transplant physician may be involved, if the patient is a candidate for bone/stem cell transplant
  • A radiation oncologist may be deemed necessary for skin-directed therapy
  • A dermatopathology/hematopathology consultation remains essential for definitive diagnosis and subtyping of leukemia 

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

An understanding of the various presentations of leukemia cutis and a complete history of the patient is essential as the lesions can easily be confused with other diagnoses. Given this, the recommendation is that evidence-based guidelines be utilized to manage and treat all cases of leukemia cutis. When available, morphology and immunophenotype of the prior systemic leukemia should be reviewed by the pathologist to match the neoplastic clones in the skin. 

The multidisciplinary team should include healthcare professionals from a broad range of disciplines to coordinate care, including dermatologists, oncologists, and pathologists, as well as oncology specialty trained nursing, and pharmacists. The high morbidity and mortality of leukemia cutis reiterate the necessity for reliable communication between involved providers and the need for aggressive treatment. Interdisciplinary hematologic, dermatologic and pathology follow up is essential in all patients, even those in remission, for prompt identification of cutaneous recurrences (level V).


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    Contributed by Aadil Ahmed, MD
Attributed To: Contributed by Aadil Ahmed, MD

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Cancer, Leukemia Cutis - Questions

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A 79-year-old woman presents with a one-month history of fatigue, recurrent fevers, diarrhea, and a florid but asymptomatic skin eruption initially on the thorax and then spreading to face, back and extremities. Her admission blood work revealed severe pancytopenia, while a skin biopsy and subsequent histologic evaluation of the lesions revealed infiltrated erythematous papules, nodules, and occasional plaques. She is a lifetime smoker but has been in good health, has no medical conditions and is not on any regular medications. What is the most likely diagnosis?



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A 20-year-old male presented with a two-week history of the sensation of right eyelid fullness and double vision. History is significant for acute myeloid leukemia in remission, currently one-year status-post chemotherapy and allogeneic bone marrow transplant. The only medication he takes is tacrolimus and famotidine for gastroesophageal reflux disease. On exam, there was a fullness of the right lower eyelid and grayish discoloration located at the medial canthus. An orbital ultrasound revealed an irregular lobular mass at the base located in the right lower lid. Subsequent investigations included a right orbitotomy and incisional biopsy. The dissection of the mass revealed a greenish mass that was infiltrating the nasal fat pad. Based on the information given above, what is the most probable diagnosis?



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A 45-year-old female with a history of Hashimoto thyroiditis presents with a generalized non-erythematous papular rash. Skin biopsy was positive for a lymphoproliferative disorder. The abnormal cells were positive for CD45, lysozyme, and myeloperoxidase. Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy are likely to reveal which type of leukemia?



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A 60-year-old female presented with low-grade fevers and weight loss and a faint maculopapular, nonpruritic rash on the abdomen for the past two months. Peripheral blood showed leukocytosis with 78% monocytes. A skin biopsy showed a mononuclear cell infiltrate, with round convoluted nuclei, dispersed chromatin, all consistent with leukemia cutis. Bone marrow biopsy revealed 80% blasts expressing monocytic markers consistent with acute monoblastic (M5) leukemia. Which chromosomal abnormality is likely to be present?



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A 45-year-old male known to have chronic myelogenous leukemia (CLL) and HIV developed altered mental status, visual hallucinations, and agitation one week after admission for neutropenic fever and herpes zoster. He received treatment for CLL five years ago, went into remission and then relapsed one year ago. The exam revealed a temperature of 103 F, splenomegaly, and an extensive vesicular dermatomal infiltrate across the midline of his back to the midline of his right abdomen. Similar lesions were noted over the trunk, legs, face, and scalp. IV vancomycin and cefepime were started for the neutropenic fever, IV acyclovir for herpes zoster and due to concern for possible alcoholic hallucinosis, he was placed on withdrawal protocol. The symptoms, however, did not improve and he became more agitated, confused, and he started to have blurred vision and even experienced one episode of seizures. What is the most likely diagnosis?



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A 69-year-old man has increasing fatigue, fever, and fine petechial spots on his gums. His primary care provider notices that his labs show a white count of 35,000/mcL with 89% lymphocytes, decreased hemoglobin, and platelets. Physical exam reveals painful hepatosplenomegaly, oral mucosal petechiae, and a diffuse eczematous rash. He has been advised a peripheral smear that shows small lymphocytes with condensed chromatin and fragile destructed lymphocytes. Flow cytometry reveals CD 5, 19 and 23+ cells. What is the first-line treatment for symptomatic treatment in this patient?



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Cancer, Leukemia Cutis - References

References

Obiozor C,Ganguly S,Fraga GR, Leukemia cutis with lymphoglandular bodies: a clue to acute lymphoblastic leukemia cutis. Dermatology online journal. 2015 Aug 15;     [PubMed]
Seymour JF,Pierce SA,Kantarjian HM,Keating MJ,Estey EH, Investigation of karyotypic, morphologic and clinical features in patients with acute myeloid leukemia blast cells expressing the neural cell adhesion molecule (CD56). Leukemia. 1994 May;     [PubMed]
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Ratnam KV,Khor CJ,Su WP, Leukemia cutis. Dermatologic clinics. 1994 Apr;     [PubMed]
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Zhang IH,Zane LT,Braun BS,Maize J Jr,Zoger S,Loh ML, Congenital leukemia cutis with subsequent development of leukemia. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2006 Feb;     [PubMed]
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Wagner G,Fenchel K,Back W,Schulz A,Sachse MM, Leukemia cutis - epidemiology, clinical presentation, and differential diagnoses. Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft = Journal of the German Society of Dermatology : JDDG. 2012 Jan;     [PubMed]
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Kaddu S,Zenahlik P,Beham-Schmid C,Kerl H,Cerroni L, Specific cutaneous infiltrates in patients with myelogenous leukemia: a clinicopathologic study of 26 patients with assessment of diagnostic criteria. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 1999 Jun;     [PubMed]
Sambasivan A,Keely K,Mandel K,Johnston DL, Leukemia cutis: an unusual rash in a child. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne. 2010 Feb 9;     [PubMed]
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Giralt S,O'Brien S,Weeks E,Luna M,Kantarjian H, Leukemia cutis in acute promyelocytic leukemia: report of three cases after treatment with all-trans retinoic acid. Leukemia & lymphoma. 1994 Aug     [PubMed]

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