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Monitoring Mixed Lineage Leukemia Expression May Help Identify Patients with Mixed Lineage Leukemia–Rearranged Acute Leukemia Who Are at High Risk of Relapse after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation

Jing Liu, Yu Wang, Lan-Ping Xu, Dai-Hong Liu, Ya-Zhen Qin, Ying-Jun Chang, Kai-Yan Liu, Xiao-Jun Huang

Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, In Press, Uncorrected Proof, Available online 13 March 2014


To evaluate the prognostic value of the expression of the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene for predicting the relapse of patients with MLL-rearranged acute leukemia (AL) after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT), the levels of MLL transcripts in bone marrow (BM) specimens were monitored serially by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RQ-PCR) at predetermined time points in 40 patients with MLL-rearranged AL who were treated with allo-HSCT. These patients were followed for a median of 24.5 months (range, 8 to 60 months). A total of 236 BM samples were collected and analyzed. Of these, 230 were monitored concurrently for minimal residual disease (MRD) by flow cytometry (FCM) for leukemia-associated aberrant immune phenotypes and by RQ-PCR for the expression of the Wilms tumor (WT1) gene. The 3-year cumulative incidence of relapse in patients who experienced MLL-positive patients (MLL > .0000%) (n = 9) after HSCT was 93.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 87% to 100%) compared with 12.5% (95% CI, 5.6% to 19.4%) for MLL-negative patients (n = 31) (P < .001). For these 2 patient groups, the 3-year overall survival (OS) was 12.5% (95% CI, .8% to 24.2%) and 77.8% (95% CI, 68.4% to 87.2%) (P < .001), respectively, and the 3-year leukemia-free survival (LFS) was 0% and 72.2% (95% CI, 61.1% to 83.3%), respectively (P < .001). MLL positivity was associated with a higher rate of relapse (hazard ratio [HR], 18.643; 95% CI, 3.449 to 57.025; P = .001), lower LFS (HR, 7.267; 95% CI, 2.038 to 25.916; P = .002), and lower OS (HR, 8.259; 95% CI, 2.109 to 32.336; P = .002), as determined by Cox multivariate analysis. The expression of the MLL gene had a higher specificity and sensitivity than WT1 or MRD monitored by FCM for predicting the relapse of the patients with MLL + AL. Our results suggest that monitoring the expression of the MLL gene may help to identify patients with MLL + AL who are at high risk of relapse after allo-HSCT and may provide a guide for suitable intervention.


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