PURPOSE: Several studies have shown survival benefit by autologous stem cell transplantation in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) after purging of grafts. This has, however, not been confirmed in randomized studies due to high toxicity of purging modalities for normal progenitor/stem cells. In this study, we investigated whether positive selection for CD34+ and/or CD133+ cells, which results in high recovery of normal progenitor/stem cells, is applicable for purging AML grafts.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Positive selections of normal stem cells using CD34 and/or CD133 can be done if one or both markers are absent or have dim expression and remain so during the course of the disease. Marker expressions in newly diagnosed AML were measured with flow cytometry using a cutoff value for positivity of 1%. Stability of marker expression was studied by pairwise comparison of material at diagnosis and relapse. Leukemia associated phenotype expression was used to measure the efficacy of tumor cell reduction.
RESULTS: In newly diagnosed AML (n = 165), we found no CD34 and/or CD133 expression in 32% of the cases and dim expression in 20% of the cases. No increase in the percentage of CD34+ cells (n = 44) and CD133+ cells (n = 29) was found in corresponding relapses. Positive selection using grafts contaminated with AML blasts, showing either no or dim expression of CD34 or CD133, resulted in a 3 to 4 log tumor cell reduction (n = 11) with median 50% recovery of normal stem cells.
CONCLUSIONS: Purging by positive selection of CD34+ and/or CD133+ cells can safely, effectively, and reproducibly be applied in about 50% of AML cases.