BACKGROUND: Patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) often reach complete remission, but relapse rates remain high. Next-generation sequencing enables the detection of molecular minimal residual disease in virtually every patient, but its clinical value for the prediction of relapse has yet to be established.
METHODS: We conducted a study involving patients 18 to 65 years of age who had newly diagnosed AML. Targeted next-generation sequencing was carried out at diagnosis and after induction therapy (during complete remission). End points were 4-year rates of relapse, relapse-free survival, and overall survival.
RESULTS: At least one mutation was detected in 430 out of 482 patients (89.2%). Mutations persisted in 51.4% of those patients during complete remission and were present at various allele frequencies (range, 0.02 to 47%). The detection of persistent DTA mutations (i.e., mutations in DNMT3A, TET2, and ASXL1), which are often present in persons with age-related clonal hematopoiesis, was not correlated with an increased relapse rate. After the exclusion of persistent DTA mutations, the detection of molecular minimal residual disease was associated with a significantly higher relapse rate than no detection (55.4% vs. 31.9%; hazard ratio, 2.14; P<0.001), as well as with lower rates of relapse-free survival (36.6% vs. 58.1%; hazard ratio for relapse or death, 1.92; P<0.001) and overall survival (41.9% vs. 66.1%; hazard ratio for death, 2.06; P<0.001). Multivariate analysis confirmed that the persistence of non-DTA mutations during complete remission conferred significant independent prognostic value with respect to the rates of relapse (hazard ratio, 1.89; P<0.001), relapse-free survival (hazard ratio for relapse or death, 1.64; P=0.001), and overall survival (hazard ratio for death, 1.64; P=0.003). A comparison of sequencing with flow cytometry for the detection of residual disease showed that sequencing had significant additive prognostic value.
CONCLUSIONS: Among patients with AML, the detection of molecular minimal residual disease during complete remission had significant independent prognostic value with respect to relapse and survival rates, but the detection of persistent mutations that are associated with clonal hematopoiesis did not have such prognostic value within a 4-year time frame. (Funded by the Queen Wilhelmina Fund Foundation of the Dutch Cancer Society and others.).