Background The recent discontinuation clinical trials have demonstrated that IM discontinuation can be employed based on clinical study in patients who had enough IM therapy and undetectable molecular residual disease (UMRD) durations prior to IM discontinuation. Moreover, treatment rechallenge in patients with molecular recurrence lead a second deep molecular response, suggesting that IM discontinuation is safe. However, the issues on the definition of molecular relapse requiring treatment resumption and the occurrence of late relapse with a long-term follow-up after IM discontinuation are important. Therefore, here we analyzed the long-term follow-up results of the patients who lost UMRD after IM discontinuation

Methods CP CML patients who were treated with IM for more than 3 years and had undetectable levels of BCR-ABL1 transcripts determined by quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for at least 2 years were eligible for KID study and in cases of MMR loss after 2 consecutive assessments, IM treatment was re-introduced. After IM resumption for MMR loss, the molecular response was evaluated every month until MMR was re-achieved and every 3 months thereafter. The second stop was permitted in the patients who were in second UMRD for at least 2 years.

Results Between October 2010 and June 2015, a total of 126 patients (70 females, 56 males) were enrolled on KID Study, with a median age of 47 years (range, 18-82), the percentages of patients with low, intermediate and high Sokal risk scores were 33%, 25% and 15%, respectively with unknown Sokal risk scores in 27%. And the median time on IM therapy and the median duration of sustained UMRD prior to discontinuation were 83 months (range, 32-141) and 41 months (range, 22-131), respectively.

After a median follow-up of 62.6 months (range, 4.9-100.8 months) after IM discontinuation, 83 patients (65.9%) lost UMRD. Among them, 56 (67.5%) patients lost MMR in 2 consecutive analyses. The other 27 (32.5%) patients who lost UMRD but not MMR exhibited different patterns of BCR-ABL1 kinetics: 8 patients spontaneously re-achieved UMRD after a median time of 2.8 months (range, 0.9-3.0 months), and 19 patient showed fluctuation of BCR-ABL1 transcript under the level of 0.1% on IS for a median 19 months (range, 3-34), and then spontaneously returned and maintained UMRD for a median 31 months (range, 2-64). Of 73 patients who lost MR4.0, the rate of MMR loss was 76.7%.

Out of 56 patients with molecular relapse, 54 patients (except two patients who restart radotinib) were re-treated with IM, all patients (except one patient lost follow-up) re-achieved MMR at a median of 1.9 months (range, 0.0 - 5.4 months) after resuming treatment. Among them, two patients who re-achieving of MMR after resuming IM therapy lost MMR again; One patient who relapsed at 53.2 months after IM discontinuation, despite re-achieving MMR 1.4 later after IM restarting, suddenly progressed to blast crisis at 6 months after restarting IM and in spite of switching to dasatinib and ponatinib, she died. Another patient lost MMR at 7.4 months after IM discontinuation and re-achieved MMR 1.7 later after IM restarting, but progressed to AP on the assessment 32 months later. The patient switched to dasatinib and lost follow-up.

Among the patients who maintained a second UMRD for at least 2 years after IM resumption, 23 patients entered into a second IM stop. With a median follow-up of 29.5 months (range, 9-63 months) since second IM stop, 15/23 patients (65%) lost MMR after a median 2.9 months (range, 1.8-30.7 months), which was similar to those of the first IM discontinuation [median 3.7 (range, 1.8-20.8 months)]. The patients who lost MMR were retreated with IM for a median of 24.5 months (range, 1.2-49.7 months); 14 patients re-achieved MMR and one patient was in therapy for 1.2 months.

Conclusions Our results showed that 67.5% and 76.7% of patients who lost UMRD and MR4.0, respectively resulted in MMR loss, and the other patients were below MMR without re-treatment, suggesting loss of MMR can be chosen for treatment re-challenge. Overall, IM discontinuation could be applied with approximately 55% of probability of sustained MMR in the long term. In addition, we demonstrated that a second attempt might be possible. Further studies on the predictors to select patients for a trial of second stop are warranted.


Kim:Il-Yang co.: Research Funding; Pfizer: Research Funding; Takeda: Research Funding; BMS: Research Funding; Novartis: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.