Impact of two independent bone marrow samples on minimal residual disease monitoring in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia


Vincent H. J. van der Velden, Department of Immunology, Erasmus MC, Dr Molewaterplein 50, 3015 GE Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


Minimal residual disease (MRD) diagnostics are used for risk group stratification in several acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) treatment protocols. It is, however, unclear whether MRD is homogeneously distributed within the bone marrow (BM) and whether this affects MRD diagnostics. We, therefore, analysed MRD levels in 141 paired BM samples (two independent punctures at different locations) from 26 ALL patients by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of immunoglobulin and T-cell receptor gene rearrangements. MRD levels were comparable in 112 paired samples (79%), whereas two samples (both taken at day 15) had MRD levels that differed more than threefold. In the remaining 27 paired samples, MRD could be quantified or detected in one sample only. In four patients, MRD-based risk group classification was dependent on the site of BM puncture. Repetition of MRD analyses using 10-fold replicates instead of triplicates resolved most differences. In conclusion, MRD levels in paired BM samples were highly comparable, indicating that it is sufficient to analyse MRD in a single sample only. Nevertheless, MRD-based risk group classification can differ between paired BM samples, mainly because of variation below the quantitative range of the PCR assay rather than to a different distribution of leukaemic cells within the BM.