Research ArticleMinimal residual disease

High-Throughput Sequencing Detects Minimal Residual Disease in Acute T Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Science Translational Medicine  16 May 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 134, pp. 134ra63
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003656

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Finding a Needle in a Haystack

Even in seemingly successful cancer therapy, a small number of cells can survive treatment and persist in patients in remission. This minimal residual disease (MRD) is a major cause of cancer relapse, and until recently was undetectable. New ways to track MRD can determine whether cancer has been eradicated, compare the efficacy of different treatments, monitor patient remission status, and aid in treatment selection. Wu et al. use high-throughput sequencing (HTS) of lymphoid receptor genes to track MRD in T-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (T-ALL).

The authors sequence the variable regions of two T cell antigen receptor genes (TCRB and TCRG) using multiplexed polymerase chain reaction. First, they identified clonal T cell receptor (TCR) sequences in individual T-ALL patients and then looked in the same patients after treatment. Their strategy identified clonality at diagnosis in most cases and also detected subsequent MRD. In a subset of cases, HTS detected MRD in patients where it was not detected by flow cytometry, which is currently used in the clinic. Thus, HTS may lower the threshold of detection for MRD and affect treatment decisions.