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J Clin Oncol. 2013 Jul 20;31(21):2736-42. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2012.48.5680. Epub 2013 Jun 17.

Use of allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation based on minimal residual disease response improves outcomes for children with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the intermediate-risk group.

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  • 1Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Department of Pediatric Oncology/Hematology, Augustenburger Platz 1, 13353 Berlin, Germany.



In children with intermediate risk of relapse of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), it is essential to identify patients in need of treatment intensification. We hypothesized that the prognosis of patients with unsatisfactory reduction of minimal residual disease (MRD) can be improved by allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT).


In the Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Relapse Study of the Berlin-Frankfurt-Münster Group (ALL-REZ BFM) 2002, patients with an MRD level of ≥ 10(-3) (n = 99) at the end of induction therapy were allocated to HSCT, whereas those with an MRD level less than 10(-3) (n = 109) continued to receive chemotherapy. MRD was quantified by real-time polymerase chain reaction for clone-specific T-cell receptor/immunoglobulin gene rearrangements.


The probability of event-free survival for patients with MRD ≥ 10(-3) was 64% ± 5% in ALL-REZ BFM 2002 compared with 18% ± 7% in the predecessor study ALL-REZ BFM P95/96 (P < .001). This was mainly achieved by reducing the cumulative incidence of subsequent relapse (CIR) at 8 years from 59% ± 9% to 27% ± 5% (P < .001). The favorable prognosis of patients with MRD less than 10(-3) could be confirmed in those with a late combined or isolated bone marrow B-cell precursor (BCP) -ALL relapse (CIR, 20% ± 5%), whereas patients with an early combined BCP-ALL relapse had an unfavorable outcome (CIR, 63% ± 13%; P < .001).


Allogeneic HSCT markedly improved the prognosis of patients with intermediate risk of relapse of ALL and unsatisfactory MRD response. As a result, outcomes in this group approximated those of patients with favorable MRD response. Patients with early combined relapse require treatment intensification even in case of favorable MRD response, demonstrating the prognostic impact of time to relapse.

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