We report here the results of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for bcr- abl transcript and clinical details derived from 64 chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) patients after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT). A total of 139 samples (2 to 220 weeks after BMT) were analyzed and bcr-abl transcript was detected in 99 samples from 52 patients. Patients were defined as bcr-abl early negative (EN) if they had > or = 1 negative PCR result < or = 1 year post-BMT (n = 13), and bcr-abl late positive (LP) if they had > or = 1 positive PCR result > or = 1 year post-BMT (n = 21). Among LP patients, only two patients had hematologic/cytogenetic (clinical) relapse. Another 19 LP patients remained in clinical remission 7 to 130 weeks after positive analysis for bcr-abl transcript, including 5 patients who had persistent bcr-abl transcript detectable even 2 years after BMT. To estimate the relationship between clinical data and residual bcr-abl transcript, EN patients are compared with LP patients. However, no clinical data studied were significantly associated with the persistent PCR positivity. If only patients in chronic phase are compared, the t-test showed significant correlation between leukocyte count just before BMT and sustained bcr-abl transcript (P < .05). These results suggest that PCR positivity is frequently observed in CML patients who sustain clinical remission after BMT, without being predictive of imminent clinical relapse. Tumor burden at the time of BMT may play an important role in the latency of bcr-abl positivity after BMT.

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