Ewing Family Tumors: Potential Prognostic Value of Reverse-Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction Detection of Minimal Residual Disease in Peripheral Blood Samples


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Abstract

In more than 95% of patients, the Ewing family of tumors (ET) has chimeric transcripts caused by fusion of the EWS gene to either FLI1 or ERG. The presence of specific EWS-FLI1 or EWS-ERG transcripts in peripheral blood (PB) samples of patients being treated for ET was prospectively evaluated, and these data were correlated to their clinical status. The authors studied 113 PB samples from 28 patients with ET. Treatment included chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgical excision of tumor after induction therapy. PB samples were taken prospectively at least 2 weeks after resection of tumor. Nested reversetranscriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) followed by Southern blot was performed in all samples. Resected tumors were reviewed for the degree of response to chemotherapy and volume. Seventy-seven PB samples from 28 patients had EWS-FLI1/ERG transcripts. In 11 patients, PB samples became negative with treatment, and, in 5 of them, the samples remained negative throughout the study. Samples taken during progression were always positive and, in 4 patients, became positive before progression was clinically evident. All patients with transcripts other than EWS-FLI1 type 1 (n = 3) died from tumor progression. This is a sensitive assay to monitor circulating tumor cells in Ewing tumors. The preliminary data suggest that progression is preceded by positive samples and may be related to specific transcript types.

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