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Br J Haematol. 1997 Aug;98(2):375-83.

The significance of minimal residual disease in hairy cell leukaemia treated with deoxycoformycin: a long-term follow-up study.

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Academic Department of Haematology and Cytogenetics, Royal Marsden Hospital, London.


We investigated the clinical significance and long-term follow-up of detecting minimal residual disease (MRD) in hairy cell leukaemia (HCL) in complete remission (CR) after treatment with deoxycoformycin (DCF). MRD was assessed in 23 patients by immunophenotyping peripheral blood and bone marrow frozen sections using a panel of antibodies, CD11c, CD25, CD103 and HC2, which detect hairy cells. 31 cases with active HCL were used as controls. 10/23 patients (43%) had MRD in bone marrow (seven), blood (one) or both sites (two) which was not detected on haematoxylin-eosin bone marrow sections nor by immunohistochemistry on paraffin sections in six cases tested. Sequential studies in four cases did not show changes in the amount of MRD. At a median follow-up of 72 months (range 15-108), 5/23 (22%) patients have relapsed with a median time of 59 months (range 15-105). MRD was detected in three of the five patients who relapsed. In the two patients with negative MRD, one relapsed with an abdominal mass and the other was a late relapse at 84 months. MRD was also documented in 7/18 patients who continued in clinical CR for a median of 80 months (range 63-98). There were no statistical differences in disease-free survival between MRD+ and MRD- patients (P = 0.8). Our findings indicate that relapse after long-term remission achieved with DCF cannot be predicted when MRD is detected by sensitive methods. A search for other parameters such as proliferative rate of the residual cells or chest and abdominal CT scan might identify patients with a higher probability of disease recurrence.

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