Chimerism analysis within 6 months of allogeneic stem cell transplantation predicts relapse in acute myeloid leukemia

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The role of chimerism analysis as a prognostic indicator of relapse after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (SCT) is controversial. We monitored chimerism status by short tandem repeat-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in T- and non-T-cell subsets and retrospectively evaluated clinical outcome in 96 patients with acute myeloid leukemia after myeloablative (MA) or reduced-intensity conditioning SCT. Fifty-six percent of 80 patients in the MA group demonstrated complete donor chimerism (CC) at all time points, whereas 6% had decreasing mixed chimerism (MC), 8% stable MC, 25% increasing MC and 3% increasing and decreasing MC. In 16 RIC patients, these percentages were 12, 50, 6, 6 and 19, respectively, together with 6% nonengraftment. Forty-three out of 96 patients experienced relapse. The last chimerism evaluation before relapse revealed increasing MC in only eight patients. In samples taken between 1 and 6 months post SCT, CC/decreasing MC was significantly related with a lower risk of relapse (31 versus 83%, P < 0.000) and mortality (38 versus 83%, P < 0.000) than with MC/increasing MC. However, the development of relapse was very rapid. Only very frequent monitoring of chimerism status by highly sensitive methods might identify impending relapse and allow early immunological intervention.

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