Quality Control of Flow Cytometry Data Analysis for Evaluation of Minimal Residual Disease in Bone Marrow From Acute Leukemia Patients During Treatment

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Low levels of leukemia cells in the bone marrow, minimal residual disease (MRD), are considered to be a powerful indicator of treatment response in acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL). A Nordic quality assurance program, aimed on standardization of the flow cytometry MRD analysis, has been established before implementation of MRD at cutoff level 10−3 as one of stratifying parameters in next Nordic Society of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology (NOPHO) treatment program for ALL. In 4 quality control (QC) rounds 15 laboratories determined the MRD levels in 48 follow-up samples from 12 ALL patients treated according to NOPHO 2000. Analysis procedures were standardized. For each QC round a compact disc containing data in list-mode files was sent out and results were submitted to a central laboratory. At cutoff level 10−3, which will be applied for clinical decisions, laboratories obtained a high concordance (91.6%). If cutoff level 10−4 was applied, the concordance would be lower (85.3%). The continuing standardization resulted in better concordance in QC3 and QC4 compared with QC1 and QC2. The concordance was higher in precursor B as compared with T-cell ALL. We conclude that after standardization, flow cytometry MRD detection can be reliably applied in international, multicenter treatment protocols.

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