Detection of minimal residual disease is recognized as an important post-therapy risk factor in acute myeloid leukemia patients. Two most commonly used methods for residual disease monitoring are real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction and multiparameter flow cytometry. The results so far are very promising, whereby it is likely that minimal residual disease results will enable to guide future post-remission treatment strategies. However, the leukemic clone may change between diagnosis and relapse due to the instability of the tumor cells. This instability may already be evident at diagnosis if different subpopulations of tumor cells coexist. Such tumor heterogeneity, which may be reflected by immunophenotypic, molecular, and/or cytogenetic changes, can have important consequences for minimal residual disease detection, since false-negative results can be expected to be the result of losses of aberrancies used as minimal residual disease markers. In this review the role of such changes in minimal residual disease monitoring is explored. Furthermore, possible causes of tumor instability are discussed, whereby the concept of clonal selection and expansion of a chemotherapy-resistant subpopulation is highlighted. Accordingly, detailed knowledge of the process of clonal evolution is required to improve both minimal residual disease risk stratification and patient outcome.

acute myeloid leukemia, clonal evolution, flow cytometry, minimal residual disease, phenotypic changes, quantitative polymerase chain reaction,
Cytometry Part B - Clinical Cytometry
Department of Medical Oncology

Zeijlemaker, W, Gratama, J.W, & Schuurhuis, G.J. (2014). Tumor heterogeneity makes AML a "moving target" for detection of residual disease. Cytometry Part B - Clinical Cytometry (Vol. 86, pp. 3–14). doi:10.1002/cyto.b.21134