• flow cytometry;
  • myeloma;
  • MGUS;
  • tumor burden quantification



Flow cytometry is the sole available technique for quantification of tumor plasma-cells in plasma-cell disorders, but so far, no consensus technique has been proposed. Here, we report on a standardized, simple, robust five color flow cytometry protocol developed to characterize and quantify bone marrow tumor plasma-cells, validated in a multicenter manner.


CD36 was used to exclude red blood cell debris and erythroblasts, CD38 and CD138 to detect plasma-cells, immunoglobulin light chains, CD45, CD56, CD19, and CD117 + CD34 to simultaneously characterize abnormal plasma-cells and quantify bone marrow precursors. This approach was applied in nine centers to 229 cases, including 25 controls.


Tumor plasma-cells were detected in 96.8% of cases, all exhibiting an immunoglobulin peak over 1g/L. Calculation of a plasma-cells/precursors (PC/P) ratio allowed quantification of the plasma-cell burden independently from bone marrow hemodilution. The PC/P ratio yielded the best results in terms of sensitivity (81%) and specificity (84%) for differential diagnosis between MGUS and myeloma, when compared with other criteria. Combination of both the PC/P ratio and percentage of abnormal plasma-cells allowed the best differential diagnosis, but these criteria were discordant in 25% cases. Indirect calculation of CD19 negative PC/R ratio gave the best results in terms of sensitivity (87%).


This standardized multiparameter flow cytometric approach allows for the detection and quantification of bone marrow tumor plasma-cell infiltration in nearly all cases of MGUS and myeloma, independently of debris and hemodilution. This approach may also prove useful for the detection of minimal residual disease. © 2010 International Clinical Cytometry Society