Microfluidics for the detection of minimal residual disease in acute myeloid leukemia patients using circulating leukemic cells selected from blood

Analyst. 2016 Jan 21;141(2):640-51. doi: 10.1039/c5an01836f.


We report a highly sensitive microfluidic assay to detect minimal residual disease (MRD) in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that samples peripheral blood to search for circulating leukemic cells (CLCs). Antibodies immobilized within three separate microfluidic devices affinity-selected CLC subpopulations directly from peripheral blood without requiring pre-processing. The microfluidic devices targeted CD33, CD34, and CD117 cell surface antigens commonly expressed by AML leukemic cells so that each subpopulation's CLC numbers could be tracked to determine the onset of relapse. Staining against aberrant markers (e.g. CD7, CD56) identified low levels (11-2684 mL(-1)) of CLCs. The commonly used platforms for the detection of MRD for AML patients are multi-parameter flow cytometry (MFC), typically from highly invasive bone marrow biopsies, or PCR from blood samples, which is limited to <50% of AML patients. In contrast, the microfluidic assay is a highly sensitive blood test that permits frequent sampling for >90% of all AML patients using the markers selected for this study (selection markers CD33, CD34, CD117 and aberrant markers such as CD7 and CD56). We present data from AML patients after stem cell transplant (SCT) therapy using our assay. We observed high agreement of the microfluidic assay with therapeutic treatment and overall outcome. We could detect MRD at an earlier stage compared to both MFC and PCR directly from peripheral blood, obviating the need for a painful bone marrow biopsy. Using the microfluidic assay, we detected MRD 28 days following one patient's SCT and the onset of relapse at day 57, while PCR from a bone marrow biopsy did not detect MRD until day 85 for the same patient. Earlier detection of MRD in AML post-SCT enabled by peripheral blood sampling using the microfluidic assay we report herein can influence curative clinical decisions for AML patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Humans
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / blood*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / surgery
  • Neoplasm, Residual / blood
  • Neoplasm, Residual / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm, Residual / pathology
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology*
  • Recurrence
  • Sensitivity and Specificity