Background: Central nervous system (CNS) involvement is associated with relapse in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and is a diagnostic challenge.
Procedure: In a Nordic/Baltic prospective study, we assessed centralized flow cytometry (FCM) of locally fixed cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples versus local conventional cytospin-based cytology (CC) for detecting leukemic cells and evaluating kinetics of elimination of leukemic cells in CSF.
Results: Among 300 patients with newly diagnosed ALL, 87 (29%) had CSF involvement by FCM, while CC was positive in 30 (10%) of 299 patients with available CC data (P < 0.001). Patients with FCM+/CC+ had higher CSF leukemic blast counts compared to patients positive by FCM only (medians: 0.10 vs. 0.017 leukemic blasts/μl, P = 0.006). Patients positive by FCM had higher white blood cell counts in peripheral blood than patients negative by FCM (medians: 45 × 10(9) /l vs. 10 × 10(9) /l, P < 0.001), were younger (medians: 3 years vs. 4 years, P = 0.03), and more frequently had T-cell ALL (18/87 vs. 16/213, P = 0.001). At treatment day 15, five of 52 patients (10%) who had CSF positive by FCM at diagnosis remained so despite at least two doses of weekly intrathecal chemotherapy.
Conclusions: Longer follow-up is needed to clarify whether FCM positivity has prognostic significance and is an indicator for intensified CNS-directed therapy.
Keywords: ALL; CSF leukemia; acute; leukemias; minimal residual disease.
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.