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Blood. 2010 Jun 10;115(23):4657-63. doi: 10.1182/blood-2009-11-253435. Epub 2010 Mar 19.

Clinical significance of low levels of minimal residual disease at the end of remission induction therapy in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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Department of Oncology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


Minimal residual disease (MRD) at the end of remission-induction therapy predicts relapse in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). We examined the clinical significance of levels below the usual threshold value for MRD positivity (0.01%) in 455 children with B-lineage ALL, using polymerase chain reaction amplification of antigen-receptor genes capable of detecting at least 1 leukemic cell per 100 000 normal mononucleated cells (0.001%). Of the 455 clinical samples studied on day 46 of therapy, 139 (30.5%) had MRD 0.001% or more with 63 of these (45.3%) showing levels of 0.001% to less than 0.01%, whereas 316 (69.5%) had levels that were either less than 0.001% or undetectable. MRD measurements of 0.001% to less than 0.01% were not significantly related to presenting characteristics but were associated with a poorer leukemia cell clearance on day 19 of remission induction therapy. Patients with this low level of MRD had a 12.7% (+/- 5.1%; SE) cumulative risk of relapse at 5 years, compared with 5.0% (+/- 1.5%) for those with lower or undetectable MRD (P < .047). Thus, low levels of MRD (0.001%-< 0.01%) at the end of remission induction therapy have prognostic significance in childhood ALL, suggesting that patients with this finding should be monitored closely for adverse events.

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