Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is generally regarded as a stem cell disease. In CD34-positive AML, the leukemic stem cell has been recognized as CD38 negative. This CD34+CD38- population survives chemotherapy and is most probable the cause of minimal residual disease (MRD). The outgrowth of MRD causes relapse and MRD can therefore serve as a prognostic marker. The key role of leukemogenic CD34+CD38- cells led us to investigate whether they can be detected under MRD conditions. Various markers were identified to be aberrantly expressed on the CD34+CD38- population in AML and high-risk MDS samples at diagnosis, including C-type lectin-like molecule-1 and several lineage markers/marker-combinations. Fluorescent in situ hybridization analysis revealed that marker-positive cells were indeed of malignant origin. The markers were neither expressed on normal CD34+CD38- cells in steady-state bone marrow (BM) nor in BM after chemotherapy. We found that these markers were indeed expressed in part of the patients on malignant CD34+CD38- cells in complete remission, indicating the presence of malignant CD34+CD38- cells. Thus, by identifying residual malignant CD34+CD38- cells after chemotherapy, MRD detection at the stem cell level turned out to be possible. This might facilitate characterization of these chemotherapy-resistant leukemogenic cells, thereby being of help to identify new targets for therapy.
van Rhenen, A., Moshaver, B., Kelder, A., Feller, N., Nieuwint, A. W. M., Zweegman, S., ... Schuurhuis, G. J. (2007). Aberrant marker expression patterns on the CD34+CD38- stem cell compartment in acute myeloid leukemia allows to distinguish the malignant from the normal stem cell compartment both at diagnosis and in remission. In Leukemia (pp. 1700-1707). (Leukemia; Vol. 21). Nature Publishing Group. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.leu.2404754