Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is a disease derived from an acquired mutation of the phosphatidylinositol glycan class A (PIGA) gene in the hematopoietic stem cells. In some cases with aplastic anemia (AA) or low-risk types of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), it is known that glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored protein deficient (PNH-type) cells can be often detected at low frequencies (about 0.01%) through the high-resolution flow cytometry-based methFod. Because these patient groups are reported to have a good reactivity towards immunosuppressive therapies as opposed to the other patient groups lacking PNH-type cells, detection of these cells is potentially useful in determining a treatment plan for the patients with bone marrow failure syndromes. To confirm this preliminary information, a large cohort study is needed.


A nationwide multi-center prospective observational study (OPTIMA) was started in July 2011 to determine the prevalence of patients with bone marrow failure syndromes who carried PNH-type cells and to clarify the significance of the presence and quantitative changes of these cells with regard to the clinical features. Each of the six laboratories in different universities was assigned as a regional analyzing center. The percentage of PNH-type cells was measured by the high-resolution flow cytometry-based method, originally established in Kanazawa University. At six individual laboratories, cross validations were conducted to minimize the inter-laboratory variations in the detection sensitivities, cutoff values, etc. The liquid FLAER method (≥0.003%) and cocktail method (≥0.005%) with CD55 and CD59 antibodies were used for the detection of PNH-type granulocytes and erythrocytes, respectively.


Quality of the assay was managed in all the laboratories by periodic blind validation tests using standard blood samples containing 0.01% PNH-type cells. Until July 2013, 1214 cases were examined; 461 (38%) were positive for PNH-type cells and 141 (11.6%) had ≥1% PNH-type cells. Out of 1214, 783 patients were diagnosed to have AA (n=386), MDS (n=341), and PNH (n=56) based on the case report forms. PNH-type cells were detected in 56.2%, 19.1% and 100% of patients with AA, MDS and PNH, respectively. In a half of patients having ≥1% PNH-type cells, lactate dehydrogenase levels exceeded the ≥1.5×upper limits of normal.


Our study has successfully established the high-resolution flow cytometry-based method that enables the detection of minimal PNH-type cells (below 0.01%). Also, by implementing a uniform protocol to six individual laboratories across the country, a system has been established for the patients to undergo the detection test with equal accuracy in all of these laboratories. Further accumulation of case studies and prolonged observations are required to determine the clinical significance of the minimal PNH-type cells, especially in terms of its relation to response to immunosuppressive therapy.


Obara:Alexion Pharmaceuticals: Honoraria. Chiba:Alexion Pharmaceuticals, In: Research Funding. Sugimori:Alexion Pharma: Honoraria. Noji:Alexion Pharmaceuticals: Honoraria. Yonemura:Alexion Pharma: Research Funding. Ando:Alexion Pharma: Research Funding. Kawaguchi:Alexion Pharmaceuticals: Honoraria. Shichishima:Alexion Pharmaceuticals, In: Honoraria, Membership on an entity’s Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding. Ninomiya:Alexion Pharma: Honoraria. Nishimura:Alexion Pharma: Research Funding, Speakers Bureau. Kanakura:Alexion Pharmaceuticals: Research Funding, Speakers Bureau. Nakao:Alexion Pharmaceuticals, In: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.