Key Points

  • Rate of reduction in BCR-ABL1 transcripts over the first 3 months of therapy is a strong predictor of sustained treatment-free remission

  • Slower rates of BCR-ABL1 decline correlate with longer duration of drug exposure to become eligible for a treatment-free remission attempt

With treatment-free remission (TFR) rapidly becoming the ultimate goal of therapy in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), there is a need to develop strategies to maximise sustained TFR by improving our understanding of its key determinants. Chronic phase CML patients attempting TFR were evaluated to identify the impact of multiple variables on the probability of sustained TFR. Early molecular response dynamics were included as a predictive variable, assessed by calculating the patient-specific halving time of BCR-ABL1 after commencing tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy. Overall, 115 patients attempted TFR and had ≥12 months follow-up. The probability of sustained TFR, defined as remaining in major molecular response off TKI therapy for 12 months, was 55%. The time taken for the BCR-ABL1 value to halve was the strongest independent predictor of sustained TFR: 80% in patients with a halving time of <9.35 days (first quartile) compared with only 4% if the halving time was >21.85 days (last quartile) (P<.001). The e14a2 BCR-ABL1 transcript type and duration of TKI exposure before attempting TFR were also independent predictors of sustained TFR. However, the BCR-ABL1 value measured at 3 months of TKI was not an independent predictor of sustained TFR. A more rapid initial BCR-ABL1 decline after commencing TKI also correlated with an increased likelihood of achieving TFR eligibility. The association between sustained TFR and the time taken for BCR-ABL1 to halve after commencing TKI was validated using an independent dataset. These data support the critical importance of the initial kinetics of BCR-ABL1 decline for long-term outcomes.

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