Current risk algorithms are primarily based on pre-treatment factors and imperfectly predict outcome in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We introduce and validate a post-treatment approach of leukemic stem cell (LSC) assessment for prediction of outcome. LSC containing CD34+CD38− fractions were measured using flow cytometry in an add-on study of the HOVON102/SAKK trial. Predefined cut-off levels were prospectively evaluated to assess CD34+CD38−LSC levels at diagnosis (n = 594), and, to identify LSClow/LSChigh (n = 302) and MRDlow/MRDhigh patients (n = 305) in bone marrow in morphological complete remission (CR). In 242 CR patients combined MRD and LSC results were available. At diagnosis the CD34+CD38− LSC frequency independently predicts overall survival (OS). After achieving CR, combining LSC and MRD showed reduced survival in MRDhigh/LSChigh patients (hazard ratio [HR] 3.62 for OS and 5.89 for cumulative incidence of relapse [CIR]) compared to MRDlow/LSChigh, MRDhigh/LSClow, and especially MRDlow/LSClow patients. Moreover, in the NPM1mutant positive sub-group, prognostic value of golden standard NPM1-MRD by qPCR can be improved by addition of flow cytometric approaches. This is the first prospective study demonstrating that LSC strongly improves prognostic impact of MRD detection, identifying a patient subgroup with an almost 100% treatment failure probability, warranting consideration of LSC measurement incorporation in future AML risk schemes.
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We thank all participating HOVON/SAKK study centers, and the patients herein.
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