Introduction: The immunoglobulin free light chain (FLC) is the precursor protein of amyloid in primary systemic amyloidosis (AL). Historically, the ability to monitor the amyloid protein precursor has been crude. There is now a test that reproducibly measures serum levels of FLC. We evaluated the utility of this assay in patients with AL undergoing peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT).

Methods: Between March 1, 1996 and July 31, 2004, 98 patients with AL undergoing PBSCT had serial FLC measurements performed either prospectively or on stored sera. Patients who died before their 100 day evaluation were excluded because response could not be estimated. FLC levels were performed using Freelite™ reagents on a Dade-Behring Nephelometer. In order to pool the data of the monoclonal kappa and lambda patients, the clonal free light chain was considered the involved] immunoglobulin free light chain for the purpose of these analyses and is henceforth referred to as FLC. The prognostic effects of the initial concentration and the extent of reduction of monoclonal FLC on survival were evaluated.

Results: Pre-transplant, 94% of patients had an abnormal FLC ratio, with a median involved FLC of 152 mg/L [15.2 mg/dL]. Only 14% of 98 patients had a “measurable” serum M-spike (i.e. ≥ 10 g/L [1 g/dL]) on electrophoresis with a median of 1 g/L [0.1 g/dL]. Ten patients have died of their disease during a median follow-up time of 19.5 months, range 3.3 to 103 months. The 2- year and 4-year estimated survivals are 92% and 76%, respectively. Using the 75th percentile value of pre-PBSCT FLC (382 mg/L [38.2 g/dL]) as a grouping variable, there was a significantly higher risk of death 5.4 (95% confidence interval 1.5–19.3) in the patient quartile with the highest baseline FLC. Baseline FLC correlated with serum cardiac troponin T levels (rho 0.51, p<0.0001), suggesting that high FLC levels are associated with more advanced disease. After PBSCT, the median percent reduction of FLC was 81%. The percent FLC reduction did not predict for survival, but the absolute level of FLC achieved after therapy did. The hazard ratio for death for not achieving a post-transplant FLC of 20 mg/L [2 mg/dL] post-transplant was 5.1 (95% confidence interval 1.1–24.1). Of 91 patients evaluable for complete response by EBMT criteria, 45 had a complete hematological response. Sixty-five percent of the patients achieving a FLC level of less than 20 mg/L [2 mg/dL] also had a complete hematologic response. Free light chain response as defined by a post transplant FLC level 20mg/L [2 mg/dL] or lower was a more powerful predictor of survival than complete hematologic response, as defined by the EBMT multiple myeloma criteria. Post-PBSCT FLC level only weakly predicted for organ response, but median follow-up for surviving patients is relatively short at 19.6 months.

Conclusion: FLC measurements both pre- and post-PBSCT are important predictors of patient outcome.

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