Measurable residual disease is associated with inferior outcomes in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Measurable residual disease monitoring enhances risk stratification and may guide therapeutic intervention. The European LeukemiaNet working party recently came to a consensus recommendation incorporating leukemia associated immunophenotype-based different from normal approach by multi-color flow cytometry for measurable residual disease evaluation. However, the analytical approach is highly expertise-dependent and difficult to standardize. Here we demonstrate that loss of plasmacytoid dendritic cell differentiation after 7+3 induction in AML is highly specific for measurable residual disease positivity (specificity 97.4%) in a uniformly treated patient cohort. Moreover, loss of plasmacytoid dendritic cell differentiation as determined by a blast-to-plasmacytoid dendritic cell ratio >10 was strongly associated with inferior overall and relapse-free survival (RFS) [Hazard ratio 2.79, 95% confidence interval (95%CI): 0.98-7.97; P=0.077) and 3.83 (95%CI: 1.51-9.74; P=0.007), respectively), which is similar in magnitude to measurable residual disease positivity. Importantly, measurable residual disease positive patients who reconstituted plasmacytoid dendritic cell differentiation (blast/plasmacytoid dendritic cell ratio <10) showed a higher rate of measurable residual disease clearance at later pretransplant time points compared to patients with loss of plasmacytoid dendritic cell differentiation (blast/plasmacytoid dendritic cell ratio <10) (6 of 12, 50% vs. 2 of 18, 11%; P=0.03). Furthermore pre-transplant plasmacytoid dendritic cell recovery was associated with superior outcome in measurable residual disease positive patients. Our study provides a novel, simple, broadly applicable, and quantitative multi-color flow cytometry approach to risk stratification in AML.
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