Molecular monitoring of BCR/ABL transcripts by real time quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) is an essential technique for clinical management of patients with BCR/ABL-positive CML and ALL. Though quantitative BCR/ABL assays are performed in hundreds of laboratories worldwide, results among these laboratories cannot be reliably compared due to heterogeneity in test methods, data analysis, reporting, and lack of quantitative standards. Recent efforts towards standardization have been limited in scope. Aliquots of RNA were sent to clinical test centers worldwide in order to evaluate methods and reporting for e1a2, b2a2, and b3a2 transcript levels using their own qRT-PCR assays. Total RNA was isolated from tissue culture cells that expressed each of the different BCR/ABL transcripts. Serial log dilutions were prepared, ranging from 100 to 10−5, in RNA isolated from HL60 cells. Laboratories performed 5 independent qRT-PCR reactions for each sample type at each dilution. In addition, 15 qRT-PCR reactions of the 10−3 b3a2 RNA dilution were run to assess reproducibility within and between laboratories. Participants were asked to run the samples following their standard protocols and to report cycle threshold (Ct), quantitative values for BCR/ABL and housekeeping genes, and ratios of BCR/ABL to housekeeping genes for each sample RNA. Thirty-seven (n=37) participants have submitted qRT-PCR results for analysis (36, 37, and 34 labs generated data for b2a2, b3a2, and e1a2, respectively). The limit of detection for this study was defined as the lowest dilution that a Ct value could be detected for all 5 replicates. For b2a2, 15, 16, 4, and 1 lab(s) showed a limit of detection at the 10−5, 10−4, 10−3, and 10−2 dilutions, respectively. For b3a2, 20, 13, and 4 labs showed a limit of detection at the 10−5, 10−4, and 10−3 dilutions, respectively. For e1a2, 10, 21, 2, and 1 lab(s) showed a limit of detection at the 10−5, 10-4, 10-3, and 10-2 dilutions, respectively. Log %BCR/ABL ratio values provided a method for comparing results between the different laboratories for each BCR/ABL dilution series. Linear regression analysis revealed concordance among the majority of participant data over the 10-1 to 10-4 dilutions. The overall slope values showed comparable results among the majority of b2a2 (mean=0.939; median=0.9627; range (0.399 – 1.1872)), b3a2 (mean=0.925; median=0.922; range (0.625 – 1.140)), and e1a2 (mean=0.897; median=0.909; range (0.5174 – 1.138)) laboratory results (Fig. 1,–,3)). Thirty-four (n=34) out of the 37 laboratories reported Ct values for all 15 replicates and only those with a complete data set were included in the inter-lab calculations. Eleven laboratories either did not report their copy number data or used other reporting units such as nanograms or cell numbers; therefore, only 26 laboratories were included in the overall analysis of copy numbers. The median copy number was 348.4, with a range from 15.6 to 547,000 copies (approximately a 4.5 log difference); the median intra-lab %CV was 19.2% with a range from 4.2% to 82.6%. While our international performance evaluation using serially diluted RNA samples has reinforced the fact that heterogeneity exists among clinical laboratories, it has also demonstrated that performance within a laboratory is overall very consistent. Accordingly, the availability of defined BCR/ABL RNAs may facilitate the validation of all phases of quantitative BCR/ABL analysis and may be extremely useful as a tool for monitoring assay performance. Ongoing analyses of these materials, along with the development of additional control materials, may solidify consensus around their application in routine laboratory testing and possible integration in worldwide efforts to standardize quantitative BCR/ABL testing.
Sher:Invivoscribe Technologies Inc: Employment. Miller:Invivoscribe Technologies Inc: Employment. Huang:Invivoscribe Technologies Inc: Employment. Shaw:Invivoscribe Technologies Inc: Employment.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.