Allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloHSCT) in first complete remission (CR1) remains the consolidation therapy of choice in Philadelphia-positive (Ph+) acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The prognostic value of measurable levels of minimal residual disease (MRD) at time of conditioning is a matter of debate. We analyzed the predictive relevance of MRD levels before transplantation on the clinical outcome of Ph+ ALL patients treated with chemotherapy and imatinib in 2 consecutive prospective clinical trials. MRD evaluation before transplantation was available for 65 of the 73 patients who underwent an alloHSCT in CR1. A complete or major molecular response at time of conditioning was achieved in 24 patients (37%), whereas 41 (63%) remained carriers of any other positive MRD level in the bone marrow. MRD negativity at time of conditioning was associated with a significant benefit in terms of risk of relapse at 5 years, with a relapse incidence of 8% compared with 39% for patients with MRD positivity (P = .007). However, thanks to the post-transplantation use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), disease-free survival was 58% versus 41% (P = .17) and overall survival was 58% versus 49% (P = .55) in MRD-negative compared with MRD-positive patients, respectively. The cumulative incidence of nonrelapse mortality was similar in the 2 groups. Achieving a complete molecular remission before transplantation reduces the risk of leukemia relapse even though TKIs may still rescue some patients relapsing after transplantation.
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
- Allogeneic transplantation
- Minimal residual disease (MRD)
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