Hypocellular bone marrow failure (BMF) has myriad differential diagnoses, most simply considered as acquired and inherited disorders, which are frequently indistinguishable upon morphologic examination of the blood and bone marrow. Accurate diagnosis is critical to optimization of management and begins with a detailed history (including family history) and physical examination. Next-generation sequencing technologies complement traditional testing techniques (such as chromosomal fragility and telomere length assessment) and have a broad application in the diagnosis and prognostication of BMF, with the importance of detection of both germline changes and also somatic variants increasingly well understood and appreciated. There is increasing awareness of germline predisposition to haematological malignancy, which incorporates but is not limited to the traditional inherited BMF syndromes and which raises challenges for counselling, monitoring and treatment of people who harbour a germline lesion. There are many benefits to both patients and their kindred of accurate determination of the precise germline change underlying heritable bone marrow diseases, along with its associated mode of inheritance. While individually, these diseases are rare, collectively they are not so and there are many collaborative efforts underway to document the natural history of these disorders, the associated phenotypes and the ever-increasing list of variants which have sufficient evidence to warrant the ascription of a pathogenic classification. We describe the many diagnostic considerations when evaluating newly presenting patients with hypocellular BMF, with a focus on genomic assessment, which is relevant in both germline and acquired diseases.
- aplastic anaemia
- bone marrow failure
- hereditary predisposition to haematological malignancy