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06.03.2019 | Original Article – Clinical Oncology | Ausgabe 5/2019

Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology 5/2019

Absolute count of leukemic blasts in cerebrospinal fluid as detected by flow cytometry is a relevant prognostic factor in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology > Ausgabe 5/2019
Alexander Popov, Guenter Henze, Tatiana Verzhbitskaya, Julia Roumiantseva, Svetlana Lagoyko, Olga Khlebnikova, Olga Streneva, Oleg Bidanov, Grigory Tsaur, Hiroto Inaba, Alexander Karachunskiy, Larisa Fechina
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00432-019-02886-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Usually, central nervous system (CNS) involvement in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is diagnosed by cytomorphology (CM) of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) on cytospin slides. Multicolor flow cytometry (MFC) provides the opportunity to detect low numbers of leukemia cells undetectable by CM. The present study aimed at evaluating the clinical significance of MFC for the diagnosis of CNS involvement at initial manifestation of childhood ALL.


In 155 children with ALL, CSF samples were studied in parallel by CM and MFC. Patients were treated according to protocol ALL-MB-2008 for childhood ALL. The prognostic impact of the leukemia burden in CSF was determined categorizing the findings as positive/negative. In addition, the absolute blast cell count per 1 ml of CSF was studied as a continuous variable.


CSF positivity was significantly more frequent using MFC compared with CM (35.3% vs. 15.3% of patients). The outcome of MFC-positive and MFC-negative patients was not different in clinically relevant patient risk groups—CNS1, standard and intermediate-risk groups. Using the quantitative approach, at the threshold level of 20 blasts per ml of CSF, patients could be divided into two groups with a significantly different outcome, irrespective of the clinical risk group, the type of CNS-directed therapy, and the CNS status determined by CM.


Our data do not support the concept of re-stratification and modification of therapy based on qualitative CSF investigation by MFC. However, MFC is a highly sensitive technique of CSF investigation improving the definition of CNS involvement in childhood ALL, and quantitative measurement of blast cells in CSF, if well-organized, can be a useful additional tool for stratification of patients in clinical trials.

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