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Medline ® Abstract for Reference 129

of 'Treatment of relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia'

Eradication of minimal residual disease with alemtuzumab in B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) patients: the need for a standard method of detection and the potential impact of bone marrow clearance on disease outcome.
Montillo M, Schinkoethe T, Elter T
Cancer Invest. 2005;23(6):488.
The introduction of new therapeutic agents, such as fludarabine phosphate (Fludara) and alemtuzumab (MabCampath, Campath), has made it possible to treat B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) more effectively, compared with alkylating agents. However, although an increasing number of patients are able to achieve complete remission (CR), relapse is almost inevitable, because of the re-emergence of the malignant clone from small numbers of residual malignant cells. This phenomenon has introduced a need for a more sensitive assessment of low-level disease which, in turn, has encouraged the development of therapies aimed at the eradication of all residual disease in CR patients. The eradication of residual disease is associated with improved remission durability and has great potential in offering the possibility of cure. Alemtuzumab is the foundation of many eradication-based treatment approaches because of its ability to achieve clinical remissions and to successfully purge minimal residual disease (MRD) from both blood and bone marrow in B-CLL patients. This article describes and compares polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and flow cytometric methodologies for the assessment of MRD, and presents data demonstrating that alemtuzumab can eliminate residual malignant cells from blood and bone marrow (whether assessed by PCR or flow cytometry) at the highest levels of sensitivity currently available. The ability to clear MRD from bone marrow in patients achieving clinical CR using alemtuzumab is a significant step forward in the treatment of B-CLL, and supports treatment strategies in which alemtuzumab is used in combination with other agents. Purging of MRD from both blood and bone marrow also enables patients to proceed to autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, a strategy that is able to achieve long-term remission.
Division of Haematology, Department of Oncology-Haematology, Niguarda Ca'Granda Hospital, Milan, Italy. m.montillo@tiscali.it