, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp 413-418

Immunologic monitoring in adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia

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Investigation of minimal residual disease (MRD) by immunophenotyping and molecular techniques has proven to be a powerful approach for disease monitoring in patients with acute leukemia. Multiparameter flow cytometry, through the use of triple or quadruple marker combinations, identifies aberrant or uncommon phenotypic profiles in more than 90% of adult patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at diagnosis. These profiles allow identification of residual leukemic cells in bone marrow or peripheral blood once morphologic complete remission is achieved. Until now, most immunophenotypic MRD studies in ALL have focused on children. In contrast, information on the value of MRD in adults with ALL is scanty and usually restricted to polymerase chain reaction studies. In this review, we focus on technical aspects of MRD detection by flow cytometry and on the clinical data concerning the value of immunologic MRD studies as a tool for relapse prediction in adult ALL. Although prospective studies are needed, we assert that immunophenotypic MRD studies are clinically useful. Such studies should be incorporated into the routine management of adult ALL patients for identification of those at high risk of relapse, who could benefit from new alternative therapeutic approaches, and to distinguish these patients from others who could be cured with more conventional approaches.