Monoclonal Gammopathy of Uncertain Significance (MGUS) is a monoclonal disorder defined by the presence of a serum monoclonal protein <3g/dL, bone marrow plasma cells < 10% and absence of end-organ damage. The risk of progression to multiple myeloma (MM) is about 1% per year, and therefore these patients require long follow-up. Accordingly, the definition of new parameters that could be used for the identification of patients at risk of progression could be of great value. The aim of the present study is to evaluate the utility of multiparameter flow cytometry analysis of bone marrow (BM) plasma cells (PC) for predicting the risk of progression of MGUS patients. From January 1996 to September 2004, bone marrow aspirate samples from 350 patients, who fulfil the criteria of MGUS according to the International Myeloma Working Group criteria, were analysed by multiparametric flow cytometry. A specific gate on PC was performed based on CD138/CD38 expression and FSC/SSC characteristics and PC were immunophenotypically classified as normal (polyclonal) or aberrant (clonal) according to the expression of CD138, CD38, CD45, CD19 and CD56 antigens. Twenty seven patients (8 %) progressed to MM, with a median time to progression (TTP) of 46 months (range 9 to 109 months). Interestingly, the percentage of aberrant PC within the total BM PC compartment (aPC/BMPCc) clearly identify patients at different risk of progression. Thus, TTP in patients with ≥ 95% aPC/BMPCc was 85 months vs not reached cases with <95% aPC/BMPCc (p=0.0000). Other parameters with a significant influence on progression in the univariate analysis were: paraprotein level (higher vs lower of 2 mg/dl; p= 0.0004), the presence of immunoparesis (no paresis vs. decreased levels in one or two Ig. p= 0.0005), Bence-Jones proteinuria (p= 0.0003), PC BM infiltration assessed both by morphology and flow cytometry (p=0.0074; and p= 0.001, respectively), and DNA index assessed by flow cytometry (diploid vs aneuploid; p=0.0064). Moreover, the cut off level of 95% aPC/BMPCc, also allows the discrimination of two risk categories upon considering only patients at low risk of progression, based on a low paraprotein level or absence of inmunoparesis (p= 0.0000 and p= 0.0000, respectively). On multivariate analysis only the percentage of aPC/BMPCc (≥95%) (p=0.000), the DNA index (p=0.007), and the Bence-Jones proteinuria (p=0.000) showed independent prognostic value. In summary, our results show that multiparameter FC evaluation of BMPC at diagnosis is a simple, cost-effective and valuable tool for predicting the risk of progression of MGUS patients.

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