Tumor cell-associated expression of multidrug resistance (MDR) was quantitated in 22 patients with DNA-aneuploid myeloma using 2-parameter flow cytometry with monoclonal antibody (MoAb) C-219 for the detection of cytoplasmic p-170 and propidium iodide for nuclear DNA content. The proportion of cells expressing p-170 and the intensity of p-170-related fluorescence were determined for each patient. Among the 14 patients treated with vincristine-adriamycin-dexamethasone (VAD), the proportion of p-170-positive cells distinguished sensitive from resistant disease (P less than .01). Among a subgroup of seven patients with MDR analysis available prior to VAD therapy, two subsequent nonresponders had high proportions of C-219-reactive cells. The presence de novo of high proportions of p-170-expressing cells in another still untreated patient and in a further individual with resistance to dexamethasone and interferon (not associated with MDR) warrants systematic analysis of p-170 expression prior to therapy to determine its clinical implications for response to MDR-associated drugs as combined in the VAD regimen. Concurrent MDR expression by aneuploid tumor cells and cells in the diploid subcompartment may represent involvement of diploid cells in the myeloma disease process.

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