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Clin Cancer Res. 2005 May 1;11(9):3425-32.

Molecular responses in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia in chronic phase treated with imatinib mesylate.

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Departments of Leukemia, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.



To determine the clinical significance of molecular response and relapse among patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) treated with imatinib.


We analyzed the results of quantitative PCR in 280 patients with CML in chronic phase who achieved complete cytogenetic remission with imatinib (117 after IFN-alpha failure and 163 previously untreated). Median follow-up was 31 months (range, 3-52 months).


Median BCR-ABL/ABL ratio before the start of therapy was 39.44 (range, 0.252-170.53). A major molecular response (BCR-ABL/ABL ratio <0.05%) was achieved in 174 (62%), and transcripts became undetectable (complete molecular response) in 95 (34%). By multivariate analysis, only treatment with high-dose imatinib (P = 0.02) was associated with achievement of a major molecular response. Nine of 166 (5%) patients who achieved a major molecular response lost their cytogenetic remission, compared with 25 of 68 (37%) among those who did not achieve this response (P < 0.0001). Patients achieving a major molecular response 12 months after the start of therapy had significantly better complete cytogenetic remission duration than others. A >1-log reduction in transcript levels after 3 months of therapy predicted for an improved probability of achieving a major molecular response at 24 months. Increasing levels of BCR-ABL transcripts predicted for a loss of cytogenetic remission only among patients who did not achieve a major molecular response.


Achieving a major molecular response, particularly within the first year of therapy, is predictive of a durable cytogenetic remission and may be the future goal of therapy in CML.

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