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Br J Haematol. 2005 Mar;128(6):774-82.

Concurrent detection of minimal residual disease (MRD) in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia by flow cytometry and real-time PCR.

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Department of Pediatric Haematology and Oncology, University Children's Hospital, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.


Minimal (i.e. submicroscopic) residual disease (MRD) predicts outcome in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). To be used clinically, MRD assays must be reliable and accurate. Two well-established techniques, flow cytometry (FC) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), can detect leukaemic cells with a sensitivity of 0.01% (10(-4)). We analysed diagnostic samples of 45 ALL-patients (37 B-lineage ALL, eight T-lineage ALL) by four-colour FC and real-time PCR. Leukaemia-associated immunophenotypes, at a sensitivity of MRD detection by FC at the 0.01% level, were identified in 41 cases (91%); antigen-receptor gene rearrangements suitable for MRD detection with a sensitivity of 0.01% or better by PCR were identified in 38 cases (84%). The combined use of FC and PCR allowed MRD monitoring in all 45 patients. In 105 follow-up samples, MRD estimates by both methods were highly concordant, with a deviation factor of <5 by Bland-Altman analysis. Importantly, the concordance between FC and PCR was also observed in regenerating bone marrow samples containing high proportions of CD19(+) cells, and in samples studied 24 h after collection. We conclude that both MRD assays yield generally concordant results. Their combined use should enable MRD monitoring in virtually all patients and prevent false-negative results due to clonal evolution or phenotypic shifts.

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