High stem cell frequency in acute myeloid leukemia at diagnosis predicts high minimal residual disease and poor survival

Anna Van Rhenen, Nicole Feller, Angèle Kelder, August H. Westra, Elwin Rombouts, Sonja Zweegman, Marjolein A. Van Der Pol, Quinten Waisfisz, Gert J. Ossenkoppele, Gerrit Jan Schuurhuis

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303 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: In CD34-positive acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the leukemia-initiating event originates from the CD34(+)CD38(-) stem cell compartment. Survival of these cells after chemotherapy may lead to minimal residual disease (MRD) and subsequently to relapse. Therefore, the prognostic impact of stem cell frequency in CD34-positive AML was investigated. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: First, the leukemogenic potential of unpurified CD34(+)CD38(-) cells, present among other cells, was investigated in vivo using nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficient mice transplantation experiments. Second, we analyzed whether the CD34(+)CD38(-) compartment at diagnosis correlates with MRD frequency after chemotherapy and clinical outcome in 92 AML patients. RESULTS: In vivo data showed that engraftment of AML blasts in nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficient mice directly correlated with stem cell frequency of the graft. In patients, a high percentage of CD34(+)CD38(-) stem cells at diagnosis significantly correlated with a high MRD frequency, especially after the third course of chemotherapy. Also, it directly correlated with poor survival. In contrast, total CD34(+) percentage showed no such correlations. CONCLUSIONS: Both in vivo data, as well as the correlation studies, show that AML stem cell frequency at diagnosis offers a new prognostic factor. From our data, it is tempting to hypothesize that a large CD34(+)CD38(-) population at diagnosis reflects a higher percentage of chemotherapy-resistant cells that will lead to the outgrowth of MRD, thereby affecting clinical outcome. Ultimately, future therapies should be directed toward malignant stem cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6520-6527
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2005

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