Background: Monitoring of measurable residual disease (MRD) in patients (pts) with advanced myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) or acute myeloid leukemia (AML) who achieve complete remission (CR) can predict hematological relapse. Recently published data from the first cohort of the RELAZA2-trial have shown that pre-emptive therapy with azacitidine (AZA) can prevent or substantially delay an overt relapse in MRD-positive pts with MDS or AML (Platzbecker et al. Lancet Oncol. 2018).

Aims: To evaluate outcome of the entire patient cohort of the RELAZA2-trial and determine whether MRD-guided pre-emptive AZA treatment could prevent relapse in molecularly defined cohorts.

Methods: Between 12/2011 and 07/2018 380 pts with advanced MDS or AML, who had achieved CR after conventional chemotherapy or allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (allo-HCT) were prospectively screened for MRD in monthly intervals either in bone marrow (BM) or peripheral blood (PB). A total of 94 pts (AML, n=83; MDS, n=11) became MRD positive during 24 months from baseline by either quantitative PCR (qPCR) or analysis of CD34+ donor-chimerism and entered the treatment phase. Preemptive MRD-triggered treatment consisted of AZA 75 mg/m2 per day subcutaneously on days 1-7 of a 29-day cycle for up to 24 cycles. After six cycles, MRD status was reassessed and pts with MRD negativity were eligible for treatment de-escalation. Primary endpoint was relapse-free survival (RFS) six months after start of pre-emptive treatment. For mutational analysis next generation sequencing (NGS) with a panel of 54 genes was performed (Illumina Trusight Myeloid).

Results: Median age was 60 yrs (range: 22-80 yrs); 52 (55%) of the pts were female. Prior therapy consisted of chemotherapy in 42 (45%) and allo-HCT in 52 (55%) of the pts. Cytogenetics could be analyzed in 93 (99%) of the 94 pts. Risk categorization according to ELN 2017 was favorable in 30 (37%), intermediate in 31 (38%) and adverse in 21 (26%) of the AML pts, respectively. Type of MDS was advanced in all 11 pts and all were previously transplanted. Fifty-two (61%) of 85 pts with available NPM1 status were positive. NGS on 64 (68%) pts with available DNA at the time of first diagnosis revealed additional mutations in DNMT3A (n=25), TET2 (n=15), FLT3-ITD (n=12), IDH1 (n=9), FLT3-TKD (n=8), ASXL1, NRAS, TP53 (n=7, each), IDH2 (n=6), PTPN11, WT1 (n=5, each), GATA2, U2AF1 (n=4, each), CBL (n=3), CEBPA, CSFR3, CUX1, EZH2, KIT, RAD21, RUNX1, SF3B, STAG2, ZRSR2 (n=2, each), and KRAS (n=1).

MRD data were correlated with outcome in 45 pts for NPM1, in 3 for RUNX1-RUNX1T1, whereas CD34-donor-chimerism was analyzed in 39 pts (missing, n=7). There was a significant faster and deeper decline of MRD in PB as compared to BM (P=0.03). The same held true with regard to the increase of donor-chimerism, which was achieved faster in PB as compared to BM (P=0.05). Secondary molecular abnormalities (MAs) had no impact on MRD response as measured by qPCR, which was also true if MAs were categorized functionally. Similarly, additional chromosomal abnormalities had no impact on MRD response in both MRD methods. However, in pts with measurement of donor-chimerism ASXL1 mutations were a negative factor for MRD response (P<0.001). At hematological relapse, only 1 (2%) of 45 pts with NPM1 measurement was not congruently MRD positive. Six months after start of MRD-guided therapy, 56 (60%) of 94 pts were still in CR while a total of 38 pts (40%) developed a hematological relapse after median of 3 AZA cycles. 38 (40%) pts responded with either a decline of MRD below a predefined threshold (increasing donor-chimerism to ≥80% or PCR MRD <1%), while a stabilization in the absence of relapse was achieved in 18 (19%) pts. Overall response rate was not statistically different between pts with (63%) or without (55%) antecedent allo-HCT (P=0.5). RFS rate at 6 months was 60% (56/94 pts). With a median follow-up of 9 months after start of MRD-guided pre-emptive treatment 12-months overall and progression-free survival rates were 94% and 44%, respectively.

Conclusions: AZA as a pre-emptive therapy was effective in delaying hematological relapse of advanced MDS or AML pts, regardless of the underlying genetic signature. Based on these encouraging results, intensifying treatment with AZA in combination with pembrolizumab is currently investigated as MRD-guided treatment in NPM1 positive AML (PEMAZA; Identifier: NCT03769532).


Wolf:Celgene: Honoraria, Research Funding. Bug:Novartis: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Hexal: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Pfizer: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Eurocept: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Celgene: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Other: Travel; Jazz: Honoraria; Neovii: Other: Travel; Gilead: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Other: Travel; Sanofi: Other: Travel. Götze:Celgene: Research Funding. Stelljes:Amgen: Consultancy, Speakers Bureau; Pfizer: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding, Speakers Bureau. Subklewe:Celgene: Consultancy, Honoraria; Pfizer: Consultancy, Honoraria; Seattle Genetics: Research Funding; Morphosys: Research Funding; Janssen: Consultancy; AMGEN: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Roche AG: Consultancy, Research Funding; Novartis: Consultancy, Research Funding; Gilead Sciences: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding. Haenel:Amgen, Novartis, Roche, Celgene, Takeda, Bayer: Honoraria. Rollig:Amgen, Astellas, BMS, Daiichi Sankyo, Janssen, Roche: Consultancy; Abbvie, Novartis, Pfizer: Consultancy, Research Funding. Müller-Tidow:Pfizer: Research Funding, Speakers Bureau; Daiichi Sankyo: Research Funding; BiolineRx: Research Funding; Janssen-Cilag GmbH: Speakers Bureau. Platzbecker:Novartis: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Amgen: Honoraria, Research Funding; AbbVie: Consultancy, Honoraria; BMS: Consultancy, Honoraria; Janssen: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Takeda: Consultancy, Honoraria; Geron: Consultancy, Honoraria. Thiede:AgenDix GmbH: Other: Co-owner and CEO.

OffLabel Disclosure:

Off-label: treatment with azacitidine to prevent or substantially delay an overt relapse in MRD-positive patients with MDS or AML

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.