Abstract

It is becoming increasingly clear that the use of immunofixation (IF) to define complete response (CR) in MM has its limitations. Paraprotein concentration is not a direct measure of tumour bulk and maximal responses may take many months to achieve which inevitably underestimate CR rates in therapeutic schedules that contain the sequential use of different agents. The purpose of this study was to prospectively assess the applicability and value of the serum free light chain (SFLC) assay and multiparameter flow cytometry (MFC) to assess CR in the intensive pathway of the MRC Myeloma IX Trial. In this trial patients are initially randomised to induction with CVAD or CTD and patients with stable disease or better proceed to high dose melphalan (HDM) with stem cell support. There is a second randomisation to maintenance thalidomide or no further therapy. SFLC as well as standard serum and urine paraprotein assessments were performed in a central reference laboratory at the following time points: presentation, end of induction, day 100 post HDM and 3 monthly until relapse. Similarly MFC in which neoplastic plasma cells are identified and differentiated from normal plasma cells on the basis of CD19 and CD56 expression was evaluated (again in a central laboratory) at presentation, end of induction and day 100 following HDM and annually until relapse. An initial analysis of 207/1114 randomised patients was performed and the results are detailed below -

End of inductionDay 100 post HDM
IF negative 16.3% 49.4% 
SFLC normal 46.1% 78.6% 
MFC negative 10.2% 50.7% 
End of inductionDay 100 post HDM
IF negative 16.3% 49.4% 
SFLC normal 46.1% 78.6% 
MFC negative 10.2% 50.7% 

The SFLC assay was informative in 95% of patients and provided for a more rapid assessment of response than conventional methods. A normal SFLC assay at the end of induction appeared to predict for attainment of an IF-neg CR at day 100 (70% IF-neg CR if SFLC normal vs 30% when SFLC abnormal at the end of induction). It should however be noted that 58% of patients who failed to achieve an IF-neg CR at day 100 had a normal SFLC assay. MFC provides for a direct assessment of residual neoplastic plasma cells. The assay was informative in 96.7% of patients and has a reproducible sensitivity of 0.01%. The majority of patients (89.8%) had detectable disease at the end of induction with a median of 0.7% neoplastic plasma cells (range 0.01–14%). Further cytoreduction was provided by the HDM such that 49.3% had flow detectable disease at day 100 with a median of 0.26% neoplastic plasma cells (range 0.02–8%). 30% of patients with IF-neg CR had detectable disease while 21% of patients with a persistent paraprotein had no detectable disease in their marrow. The majority of the latter patients had IgG paraproteins and it is postulated that many of these pts will ultimately achieve an IF-neg CR. We would conclude that given the kinetics of paraprotein clearance in MM it may be more appropriate to define CR on the basis of a normal SFLC assay and the absence of minimal residual disease by MFC. In this way it should be possible to more accurately define the CR rate achieved by individual components of multi-agent sequential regimens.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.