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Eur J Haematol. 2003 Jan;70(1):1-10.

Quantitative real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction for diagnosis of BCR-ABL positive leukemias and molecular monitoring following allogeneic stem cell transplantation.

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  • 1Department of Hematology, Oncology and Clinical Immunology, University of Duesseldorf, Moorenstrasse 5, 40225 Duesseldorf, Germany.


Real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) (qPCR) of the BCR-ABL mRNA is a suitable technique to measure the amount of circulating leukemic cells in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). In this study, we evaluated a BCR-ABL-specific qPCR method using the LightCycler technology in 95 patients with Philadelphia chromosome positive acute leukemia (n = 7) or CML in different stages (n = 88). Primers and hybridization probes were chosen to detect the most prevalent variants of BCR-ABL (b2a2, b3a2, b2a3, b3a3, e19a2, e1a2) with a sensitivity of 10-5 for b2a2 and b3a2. With median BCR-ABL/G6PDH ratios of 10.7% in the untreated chronic phase, 43.2% in the newly diagnosed accelerated phase, and 131.4% in newly diagnosed blast crisis the BCR-ABL mRNA levels varied significantly between different stages of CML whereas no difference was found between blast crisis and untreated acute leukemias (136.9%). There was a strong relationship between qPCR results and cytogenetics in patients treated with imatinib, interferon-alpha, or following allografting. Thirteen patients with CML were sequentially examined by qPCR following myeloablative or non-myeloablative allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplantation. Five patients received donor lymphocytes and became BCR-ABL negative as confirmed by nested RT-PCR. The gradual disappearance of BCR-ABL positive cells could be monitored by qPCR following non-myeloablative transplantation. Comparison of BCR-ABL levels with the degree of donor chimerism showed that 91% of samples with complete donor chimerism were BCR-ABL negative. In 22% of BCR-ABL negative samples chimerism between 71% and 98% was observed, indicating the persistence of normal recipient's hematopoietic cells. In conclusion, the qPCR protocol used in this study is a reliable and fast method for monitoring molecular response in CML.

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