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Blood. 2003 Mar 1;101(5):1941-9. Epub 2002 Oct 31.

Emergence of clonal cytogenetic abnormalities in Ph- cells in some CML patients in cytogenetic remission to imatinib but restoration of polyclonal hematopoiesis in the majority.

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Department of Hematology, University of Leipzig, Germany.


Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is characterized by the presence of a Bcr-Abl fusion protein with deregulated tyrosine kinase activity that is required for maintaining the malignant phenotype. Imatinib, a selective inhibitor of Bcr-Abl, induces major cytogenetic remission (MCR) or complete cytogenetic remission (CCR) in the majority of patients with CML in first chronic phase. However, thorough re-evaluation of cytogenetics in a cohort of patients in MCR or CCR demonstrated clonal karyotypic abnormalities in more than 10% of cases, some of which were clinically associated with a myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Further analysis identified previous exposure to cytarabine and idarubicin as significant risk factors for the subsequent occurrence of abnormalities in Philadelphia chromosome-negative (Ph-) cells. To investigate if cytogenetically normal but clonal hematopoiesis might be present in other patients in cytogenetic remission, we studied X-chromosome inactivation as a marker of clonality by polymerase chain reaction analysis of the human androgen receptor (HUMARA). We find that imatinib restores a polyclonal pattern in most patients in CCR and MCR. Nonetheless, our results are consistent with the notion that targeted therapy of CML with imatinib favors the manifestation of Ph- clonal disorders in some patients. They indicate that patients on imatinib should be followed with conventional cytogenetics, even after induction of CCR.

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