Early response to induction chemotherapy is an important prognostic factor in B-lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). Here, we compare high-throughput sequencing (HTS) of IGH and TRG genes vs flow cytometry (FC) for measurable residual disease (MRD) detection at the end of induction chemotherapy in pediatric patients with newly diagnosed B-ALL. Six hundred nineteen paired pretreatment and end-of-induction bone marrow samples from Children's Oncology Group studies AALL0331 (clinicaltrials.gov #NCT00103285) (standard risk [SR]; with MRD by FC at any level) and AALL0232 (clinicaltrials.gov #NCT00075725) (high risk; with day 29 MRD <0.1% by FC) were evaluated by HTS and FC for event-free (EFS) and overall survival (OS). HTS and FC showed similar 5-year EFS and OS for MRD-positive and -negative patients using an MRD threshold of 0.01%. However, there was a high discordant rate with HTS identifying 55 (38.7%) more patients MRD positive at this threshold. These discrepant patients have worse outcomes than FC MRD-negative patients. In addition, the increased analytic sensitivity of HTS permitted identification of 19.9% of SR patients without MRD at any detectable level who had excellent 5-year EFS (98.1%) and OS (100%). The higher analytic sensitivity and lower false-negative rate of HTS improves upon FC for MRD detection in pediatric B-ALL by identifying a novel subset of patients at end of induction who are essentially cured using current chemotherapy and identifying MRD at 0.01% in up to one-third of patients who are missed at the same threshold by FC.
© 2018 by The American Society of Hematology.