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Leukemia. 2003 Sep;17(9):1700-6.

Serial minimal residual disease (MRD) analysis as a predictor of response duration in Philadelphia-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ALL) during imatinib treatment.

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Department of Hematology and Oncology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Hospital, Frankfurt, Germany.


Patients with refractory or relapsed Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ALL) rarely have prolonged responses to salvage therapy, including imatinib, resulting in a short opportunity for potentially curative stem cell transplantation. To identify minimal residual disease (MRD) parameters predictive of imminent relapse, we quantitated Bcr-Abl expression by real-time PCR in peripheral blood (PB) and bone marrow (BM) of 24 Ph+ALL patients after achieving a complete response and MRD minimum. The ratio of Bcr-Abl and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase copies, magnitude of increase and velocity of increase were evaluated regarding subsequent time intervals to relapse, death or censoring. High Bcr-Abl levels >/=5 x 10(-4) in PB (n=23) and >/=10(-4) in BM (n=18) were significantly associated with short time periods to relapse. Bcr-Abl increases >2 logarithmic units (log) in PB, but not in BM preceded short-term relapse. The velocity of Bcr-Abl increases predicted response duration in PB (cutoff: 1.25 log/30 days) and BM (0.6). Bcr-Abl level and velocity of increase in BM as well as magnitude of increase in PB correlated with remaining periods of survival and predicted relapse within 2 months in nine of 10, 10 of 11 and four of four patients, respectively. Thus, these MRD parameters may guide timing and intensity of therapeutic modifications.

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