Comments on the 2001 WHO proposal for the classification of haematopoietic neoplasms

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4 Scopus citations


In the preface, the World Health Organization (WHO) classification vows to offer pathologists, oncologists and geneticists worldwide a system of classification for human neoplasms based on histopathological and genetic features. Standardization of nomenclature and agreed-upon criteria for definition of the various types of cancer are felt to be a prerequisite for progress in clinical oncology, multicentre therapy trials and comparative studies in different countries. In fact, the WHO effort represents the first worldwide comprehensive consensus classification of the haematological malignancies. Consensus was reached among a subgroup of investigators, carefully selected for their experience and contributions to existing classifications. In the present climate of daily new discoveries that yield a constant stream of fascinating insights into the biology of leukaemias and lymphomas and, above all, resulting in an explosion of potential therapeutic targets, the WHO system has taken the stand of compiling established classification approaches and providing order to known facts. This furnishes an essential skeleton upon which to build in the future. The WHO committee decided that sorting neoplasms according to prognosis was neither practical nor necessary and could be misleading. While justifiable at the present time, it is important to realize that the classifications of the haematological malignancies are a moving target and that the trend is to move away from currently accepted gold standards, such as morphological evaluations, in favour of genetic characterizations, especially those with therapeutic relevance. The goal of this chapter is to fill in some gaps that, as per the author's opinion, exist in the WHO classification, predominantly, where it concerns the role of immunophenotyping as a complementary discipline for genotyping through its potential to generate surrogate marker profiles for molecular lesions. By introducing some state-of-the-art classification modalities, some of which are still awaiting confirmation, this chapter also aims to spark excitement and provide a glimpse at the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-559
Number of pages13
JournalBest Practice and Research: Clinical Haematology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Prognostically relevant platforms
  • WHO classification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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