Nowadays, the presence of specific genetic aberrations is progressively used for classification and treatment stratification, because acute leukemias with the same oncogenetic aberration generally form a clinically and diagnostically homogenous disease entity with comparable prognosis. Many oncogenetic aberrations in acute leukemias result in a fusion gene, which is transcribed into fusion transcripts and translated into fusion proteins, which are assumed to play a critical role in the oncogenetic process. Fusion gene aberrations are detected by karyotyping, FISH, or RT-PCR analysis. However, these molecular genetic techniques are laborious and time consuming, which is in contrast to flow cytometric techniques. Therefore we developed a flow cytometric immunobead assay for detection of fusion proteins in lysates of leukemia cell samples by use of a bead-bound catching antibody against one side of the fusion protein and fluorochrome-conjugated detection antibody. So far, we have been able to design such fusion protein immunobead assays for BCR-ABL, PML-RARA, TEL-AML1, E2A-PBX1, MLL-AF4, AML1-ETO and CBFB-MYH11. The immunobead assay for detection of fusion proteins can be performed within 3 to 4 hours in a routine diagnostic setting, without the need of special equipment other than a flow cytometer. The novel immunobead assay will enable fast and easy classification of acute leukemia patients that express fusion proteins. Such patients can be included at an early stage in the right treatment protocols, much faster than by use of current molecular techniques. The immunobead assay can be run in parallel to routine immunophenotyping and is particularly attractive for clinical settings without direct access to molecular diagnostics.

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Best Practice and Research in Clinical Haematology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Dekking, E.H.A, van der Velden, V.H.J, Böttcher, S, Brüggemann, M, Sonneveld, E, Koning-Goedheer, A, … van Dongen, J.J.M. (2010). Detection of fusion genes at the protein level in leukemia patients via the flow cytometric immunobead assay. Best Practice and Research in Clinical Haematology (Vol. 23, pp. 333–345). doi:10.1016/j.beha.2010.09.010