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Detection of circulating normal and tumor plasma cells in newly diagnosed patients of multiple myeloma and their associations with clinical and laboratory parameters.

INTRODUCTION: Circulating plasma cells (CPCs) are frequently noted in variable frequencies in the entire spectrum of plasma cells neoplasms. With advent of high sensitivity multi-parametric flow cytometry, it is not only possible to detect CPCs present in very low numbers, but also to categorise them into circulating tumor plasma cells (CTPCs) and circulating normal plasma cells (CNPCs), based on their marker-profile. This study used multi-colour flow cytometry to evaluate the load of both CTPCs & CNPCs at the time of diagnosis and at six months' time-point of therapy, and evaluated associations of both with clinical and laboratory parameters.

METHODS: Twenty one newly diagnosed MM patients were enrolled. Six to nine millilitres of EDTA-anticoagulated peripheral blood sample was used for flow cytometry. A ten colour antibody panel was used for analysis of CPCs, which were categorised further into CTPCs and CNPCs. Approximately 4.8 million events were acquired for the analysis. The percentage &absolute numbers of CTPCs and CNPCs were noted and the proportion of CTPCs out of all CPCs (CTPCs + CNPCs) were also calculated for evaluating their statistical associations.

RESULTS: All 21 patients of newly diagnosed MM showed presence of CPCs (CTPCs and/or CNPCs) at the time of diagnosis. The CTPCs were detected in 76 % of the study population. The median percentage and absolute counts of CTPCs were 0.52 % and 54.9 cells /µL, respectively. CNPCs were found in 95 % and the median percentage and absolute counts of CNPCs were 0.025 % and 2.66 cells/µL. After six months of therapy, CPCs (CTPCs and/or CNPCs) were found in all nine patients evaluated for this assay. CTPCs were found 33 %, with a median of 0.075 % and CNPCs were found in 89 % with a median of 0.01 %. Our study showed that the load of CTPCs was found to be higher in patients with presence of lytic bone lesions, plasmacytoma, presence of PCs on peripheral blood film by light microscopy, presence of Chr 1p32 deletion, expression of CD56 and CD81 on CTPCs, and in patients with absence of very good partial response (VGPR). Conversely, the load of CTPCs was significantly lower in patients with concomitant amyloidosis. Also, percentage of bone marrow plasma cells exhibited a significant positive correlation with the absolute count of CTPCs. We observed that the mean percentage of CNPCs was significantly higher in female patients. The load of CNPCs was lower in patients with thrombocytopenia and with hypoalbuminemia.

CONCLUSION: Increased burden of CTPCs was associated with presence of lytic lesions, plasmacytomas, Chr 1p32 deletion, expression of CD56 and CD81 on tumor cells and with failure to achieve very good partial response. The CNPCs were lower in patients with thrombocytopenia and with hypoalbuminemia. To best ot our knowledge, this is the first study from India on the relevance of circulating tumor plasma cells and the first study in the world to analyse the associations of circulating normal plasma cells in newly diagnosed patients of multiple myeloma. The study also highlights the utility of multi-parametric flow cytometry in identification and enumeration of circulating plasma cells.

MICRO ABSTRACT: Circulating plasma cells indicates poorer outcomes in patients of multiple myeloma. Twenty one newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients were evaluated by flow cytometry to enumerate and characterise circulating tumor plasma cells (CTPCs) and circulating normal plasma cells (CNPCs). Higher load of CTPCs correlated with known poor prognostic markers and poor response to therapy.

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