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Leukemia. 2003 Dec;17(12):2474-86.

Evaluation of candidate control genes for diagnosis and residual disease detection in leukemic patients using 'real-time' quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RQ-PCR) - a Europe against cancer program.

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  • 1Department of Hematological Biology, Institute Paoli Calmettes, Marseille, France.


Real-time quantitative RT-PCR (RQ-PCR) is a sensitive tool to monitor minimal residual disease (MRD) in leukemic patients through the amplification of a fusion gene (FG) transcript. In order to correct variations in RNA quality and quantity and to calculate the sensitivity of each measurement, a control gene (CG) transcript should be amplified in parallel to the FG transcript. To identify suitable CGs, a study group within the Europe Against Cancer (EAC) program initially focused on 14 potential CGs using a standardized RQ-PCR protocol. Based on the absence of pseudogenes and the level and stability of the CG expression, three genes were finally selected: Abelson (ABL), beta-2-microglobulin (B2M), and beta-glucuronidase (GUS). A multicenter prospective study on normal (n=126) and diagnostic leukemic (n=184) samples processed the same day has established reference values for the CG expression. A multicenter retrospective study on over 250 acute and chronic leukemia samples obtained at diagnosis and with an identified FG transcript confirmed that the three CGs had a stable expression in the different types of samples. However, only ABL gene transcript expression did not differ significantly between normal and leukemic samples at diagnosis. We therefore propose to use the ABL gene as CG for RQ-PCR-based diagnosis and MRD detection in leukemic patients. Overall, these data are not only eligible for quantification of fusion gene transcripts, but also for the quantification of aberrantly expressed genes.

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