Should patients with acute myeloid leukemia and measurable residual disease be transplanted in first complete remission?

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Purpose of review

Measurable (‘minimal’) residual disease in acute myeloid leukemia during first complete morphologic remission (MRDpos CR1) identifies patients with particularly high relapse risk and short survival. Here, we examine the evidence regarding optimal postremission treatment strategy for such patients.

Recent findings

With chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy/autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), disease recurrence appears inevitable in patients with MRDpos CR1. Nonrandomized studies indicate that allogeneic HCT improves outcomes over chemotherapy and/or autologous HCT, although relapse risks remain substantial. Emerging data suggest that myeloablative cord blood HCT may overcome the negative impact of MRD to a greater degree than other transplants, but the relative contributions of intensified conditioning and stem cell source to this effect are unknown.


Available evidence supports the recommendation to consider allogeneic HCT for all acute myeloid leukemia patients in MRDpos CR1. Whether cord blood transplants should be prioritized deserves further investigation. To what degree outcomes of MRDpos CR1 patients could be improved by treatment intensification during induction, postremission therapy and/or before transplantation to revert the patient into an MRDneg state is currently unknown, as is the value of post-transplant preemptive therapies. These remain areas worthy of investigation, preferably in the setting of controlled clinical trials.

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