• Double color flow cytometry;
  • immunophenotypes;
  • AML;
  • ALL;
  • remission;
  • rare events


The aim of this study was to investigate to which extent acute leukemias could be monitored for residual disease by using atypical antigen combinations as leukemia-related markers. Atypical antigenic features were determined by double color flow cytometry and included coexpression of lymphoid and myeloid related antigens, unnphysiological coexpression of immature and mature antigens, and lack of an antigen that is normally expressed during maturation. Atypical immunophenotypes were detected in 35 of 68 patients with AML (51.5%) and 15 of 24 patients with ALL (62.5%). When 12 patients with leukemia-associated markers were again analyzed at relapse, the relevant antigen combinations were retained in 11 of them. The sensitivity of this two color flow cytometric assay as determined in dilution experiments was 1 in 103 to 104 cells

Follow-up studies of bone marrow samples revealed that, after induction chemotherapy cells with leukemia-associated markers were detectable in several patients at a frequency of 0.5 to 4%, but only patients in whom the cells with atypical antigens never disappeared suffered from relapse. In contrast, patients who became negative for the atypical cells remained in complete remission (median remission duration after the first negative bone marrow assessment by flow cytometry 52 weeks, range 20–102)

We conclude that atypical antigen combinations, which are present in a meaningful number of acute leukemias, are a valuable means of monitoring acute leukemia patients during follow-up. This flow cytometric approach can complement other strategies to get a more accurate definition of remission in acute leukemia. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.