Quantification of minimal disseminated disease by quantitative polymerase chain reaction and digital polymerase chain reaction for NPM-ALK as a prognostic factor in children with anaplastic large cell lymphoma

Haematologica. 2020 Aug;105(8):2141-2149. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2019.232314. Epub 2019 Oct 24.


Detection of minimal disseminated disease is a validated prognostic factor in ALK-positive anaplastic large cell lymphoma. We previously reported that quantification of minimal disease by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RQ-PCR) in bone marrow applying a cut-off of 10 copies NPM-ALK/104 copies of ABL1 identifies very high-risk patients. In the present study, we aimed to confirm the prognostic value of quantitative minimal disseminated disease evaluation and to validate digital polymerase chain reaction (dPCR) as an alternative method. Among 91 patients whose bone marrow was analyzed by RQ-PCR, more than 10 normalized copy-numbers correlated with stage III/IV disease, mediastinal and visceral organ involvement and low anti-ALK antibody titers. The cumulative incidence of relapses of 18 patients with more than 10 normalized copy-numbers of NPM-ALK was 61±12% compared to 21±5% for the remaining 73 patients (P=0.0002). Results in blood correlated with those in bone marrow (r=0.74) in 70 patients for whom both materials could be tested. Transcripts were quantified by RQ-PCR and dPCR in 75 bone marrow and 57 blood samples. Copy number estimates using dPCR and RQ-PCR correlated in 132 samples (r=0.85). Applying a cut-off of 30 copies NPM-ALK/104 copies ABL1 for quantification by dPCR, almost identical groups of patients were separated as those separated by RQ-PCR. In summary, the prognostic impact of quantification of minimal disseminated disease in bone marrow could be confirmed for patients with anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Blood can substitute for bone marrow. Quantification of minimal disease by dPCR provides a promising tool to facilitate harmonization of minimal disease measurement between laboratories and for clinical studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, Large-Cell, Anaplastic* / diagnosis
  • Lymphoma, Large-Cell, Anaplastic* / genetics
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prognosis
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics


  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases