The Philadelphia chromosome of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) patients is caused by a translocation of the c-abl gene from chromosome 9 to the breakpoint cluster region (bcr) on chromosome 22. A new bcr- abl mRNA is expressed in these cases. We have developed a modified polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the detection of this mRNA. The method is extremely sensitive, reliable, and relatively fast. The analysis of peripheral blood or bone marrow cells from CML patients treated with chemotherapy shows that the two possible mRNAs are expressed in various combinations. Our results show that even after myeloablative therapy for bone marrow transplantation bcr-abl mRNAs are still expressed. Further studies, however, are necessary to determine the clinical relevance of a small number of persisting cells expressing the bcr-abl mRNA.

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