Molecular relapse in chronic myelogenous leukemia patients after bone marrow transplantation detected by polymerase chain reaction
Bone Marrow Transplantation
Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl
Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, BCR-ABL Positive
Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques
Polymerase Chain Reaction
Relapse of chronic myelogenous leukemia after bone marrow transplantation can be detected by using clinical, cytogenetic, or molecular tools. A modification of the polymerase chain reaction can be used in patients to detect low levels of the BCR-ABL-encoded mRNA transcript, a specific marker for chronic myelogenous leukemia. Early detection of relapse after bone marrow transplantation could potentially alter treatment decisions. We prospectively evaluated 19 patients for evidence of molecular relapse, cytogenetic relapse, and clinical relapse after bone marrow transplantation. We used the polymerase chain reaction to detect residual BCR-ABL mRNA in patients followed up to 45 months after treatment (median, 15 months; range, 6-45 months) and found 4 patients with BCR-ABL mRNA expression following bone marrow transplantation. In 2 patients BCR-ABL mRNA was detected in all samples, and both have developed cytogenetic relapse. In 1 patient BCR-ABL mRNA was detected transiently during the first month after transplant but was undetectable thereafter. The fourth patient had BCR-ABL mRNA 6 months after bone marrow transplantation but not in prior samples. Fifteen patients did not express detectable BCR-ABL mRNA. All 19 patients remain in clinical remission. In this prospective study of chronic myelogenous leukemia patients treated with bone marrow transplantation, molecular relapse preceded cytogenetic relapse in those patients who persistently express BCR-ABL mRNA. We recommend using standard clinical and cytogenetic testing to make patient care decisions until further follow-up determines the clinical outcome of those patients with residual BCR-ABL mRNA transcripts detected by polymerase chain reaction.