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Blood. 2001 Nov 1;98(9):2651-6.

Prognostic significance of minimal residual disease detection and PML/RAR-alpha isoform type: long-term follow-up in acute promyelocytic leukemia.

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  • 1Leukemia, Hematology, and Developmental Chemotherapy Services, Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10021, USA.


The t(15;17) translocation in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) yields a PML/RAR-alpha fusion messenger RNA species that can be detected by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) amplification. Breakpoints within intron 3 of PML produce a short PML/RAR-alpha isoform, whereas breakpoints within intron 6 result in a longer form. Using RT-PCR, serial evaluations were performed on the bone marrow of 82 patients with APL (median follow-up, > 63 months) who received retinoic acid (RA) induction followed by postremission treatment with chemotherapy, RA, and biologic agents. Sixty-four patients attained a clinical complete remission and had at least 2 RT-PCR assays performed after completing therapy. Forty of 47 patients (85%) with newly diagnosed APL who were induced using RA had residual disease detectable by RT-PCR before additional therapy. After 3 cycles of consolidation therapy, residual disease was found in only 4 of 40 evaluable patients (10%). Among newly diagnosed patients who had 2 or more negative RT-PCR assays, only 3 of 41 (7%) had a relapse, whereas all 4 patients (100%) who had 2 or more positive results had a relapse. Among 63 newly diagnosed patients, those who expressed the short isoform appeared to have shorter disease-free and overall survival durations than patients who expressed the long isoform. These data indicate that 2 or more negative RT-PCR assays on bone marrow, performed at least 1 month apart after completing therapy, are strongly associated with long-term remissions. Conversely, a confirmed positive test is highly predictive of relapse.

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