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Effect of BCR::ABL1 transcript type and droplet digital polymerase chain reaction on successful treatment-free remission in chronic myeloid leukemia patients who discontinued tyrosine kinase inhibitor.

BACKGROUND: Droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) is an exact method of measurement.

OBJECTIVES: We conducted this study to identify the prognostic factors for successful treatment-free remission in patients with chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia who discontinued tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). We also aimed to validate ddPCR for predicting molecular relapse.

DESIGN: This is a prospective, multicenter study.

METHODS: We enrolled patients treated with TKIs for at least 3 years with a confirmed sustained deep molecular response (DMR) for at least 1 year. TKI was re-administered in patients who experienced the loss of major molecular response (MMR).

RESULTS: A total of 66 patients from five institutions in South Korea were enrolled. During a median follow-up period of 16.5 months, 29/66 (43.9%) patients experienced molecular relapse; the probability of molecular relapse-free survival (RFS) at 6 or 12 months after TKI discontinuation was 65.6% or 57.8%, respectively, with most molecular relapses occurring within the first 7 months. All patients who lost MMR were re-treated with TKI, and all re-achieved MMR at a median of 2.8 months. E14a2 transcript type ( p  = 0.005) and longer DMR duration (⩾48 months) prior to TKI discontinuation ( p  = 0.002) were associated with prolonged molecular RFS and with sustained DMR. Patients with both e13a2 transcript type and detectable BCR::ABL1 (⩾MR5.0 ) by ddPCR at the time of TKI discontinuation showed shorter duration of molecular RFS ( p  = 0.015).

CONCLUSION: Our data suggest that transcript type and BCR::ABL1 transcript levels on ddPCR should be taken into consideration when deciding whether to discontinue TKI therapy.

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