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Diagnosis and classification of myelodysplastic syndromes

Journal Title: 
Primary Author: 
Hasserjian RP
Hasserjian RP, Germing U, Malcovati L
Original Publication Date: 
Thursday, December 28, 2023
Bone Marrow Disease(s): 

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDSs) are neoplastic myeloid proliferations characterized by ineffective hematopoiesis resulting in peripheral blood cytopenias. MDS is distinguished from nonneoplastic clonal myeloid proliferations by the presence of morphologic dysplasia and from acute myeloid leukemia by a blast threshold of 20%. The diagnosis of MDS can be challenging because of the myriad other causes of cytopenias: accurate diagnosis requires the integration of clinical features with bone marrow and peripheral blood morphology, immunophenotyping, and genetic testing. MDS has historically been subdivided into several subtypes by classification schemes, the most recent of which are the International Consensus Classification and World Health Organization Classification (fifth edition), both published in 2022. The aim of MDS classification is to identify entities with shared genetic underpinnings and molecular pathogenesis, and the specific subtype can inform clinical decision-making alongside prognostic risk categorization. The current MDS classification schemes incorporate morphologic features (bone marrow and blood blast percentage, degree of dysplasia, ring sideroblasts, bone marrow fibrosis, and bone marrow hypocellularity) and also recognize 3 entities defined by genetics: isolated del(5q) cytogenetic abnormality, SF3B1 mutation, and TP53 mutation. It is anticipated that with advancing understanding of the genetic basis of MDS pathogenesis, future MDS classification will be based increasingly on genetic classes. Nevertheless, morphologic features in MDS reflect the phenotypic expression of the underlying abnormal genetic pathways and will undoubtedly retain importance to inform prognosis and guide treatment.