Next Generation Flow for highly sensitive and standardized detection of minimal residual disease in multiple myeloma

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Abstract

Flow cytometry has become a highly valuable method to monitor minimal residual disease (MRD) and evaluate the depth of complete response (CR) in bone marrow (BM) of multiple myeloma (MM) after therapy. However, current flow-MRD has lower sensitivity than molecular methods and lacks standardization. Here we report on a novel next generation flow (NGF) approach for highly sensitive and standardized MRD detection in MM. An optimized 2-tube 8-color antibody panel was constructed in five cycles of design-evaluation-redesign. In addition, a bulk-lysis procedure was established for acquisition of ≥ 107 cells/sample, and novel software tools were constructed for automatic plasma cell gating. Multicenter evaluation of 110 follow-up BM from MM patients in very good partial response (VGPR) or CR showed a higher sensitivity for NGF-MRD vs conventional 8-color flow-MRD -MRD-positive rate of 47 vs 34% (P = 0.003)-. Thus, 25% of patients classified as MRD-negative by conventional 8-color flow were MRD-positive by NGF, translating into a significantly longer progression-free survival for MRD-negative vs MRD-positive CR patients by NGF (75% progression-free survival not reached vs 7 months; P = 0.02). This study establishes EuroFlow-based NGF as a highly sensitive, fully standardized approach for MRD detection in MM which overcomes the major limitations of conventional flow-MRD methods and is ready for implementation in routine diagnostics.

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