Department of Hematology, Flinders Medical Center, Bedford Park, Adelaide, South Australia.
In children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the level of minimal residual disease (MRD) at the end of induction strongly predicts outcome, presumably because it measures both drug sensitivity and the number of leukemic cells requiring elimination. Children with high levels (> 10(-3) leukemic cells per marrow cell) nearly always relapse, whereas those with low levels (<2 x 10(-5)) seldom do. However, the importance of MRD in adult ALL is unclear. We studied 27 patients aged 14 to 74 who were treated with a standard protocol and who attained morphological remission. MRD in the marrow at first remission was quantified by using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), with the rearranged immunoglobulin heavy chain gene as a molecular marker. Levels of MRD varied from 3 x 10(-1) to <7 x 10(-7). The probability of long-term relapse-free survival was significantly related to the level of MRD and only one of nine patients with MRD >10(-3) did not relapse. For patients who did relapse, there was an inverse relationship between MRD level and the length of remission. Overall, MRD in adults in whom a translocation had not been identified was significantly higher than in comparably-treated children, suggesting that ALL in adults is more drug-resistant than in children.
PMID: 8652840, UI: 96247529