Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a myeloproliferative disorder associated with the Philadelphia chromosome (Ph1) in more than 95% of these patients. The Ph1 and the resulting BCR-ABL fused genes are markers for this type of leukemia. In CML, the product of the fused BCR- ABL gene is typically a protein of approximately 2,000 amino acids termed P210 BCR-ABL. We have developed an assay for the BCR-ABL protein involving Western blotting of circulating white blood cells (WBC) with an anti-ABL monoclonal antibody that can detect P210 BCR-ABL and P145 ABL in peripheral blood cells from chronic phase Ph1-positive leukemia patients. This assay was used to analyze the BCR-ABL protein content of circulating WBC from CML patients before and after various treatments. In parallel to changes in percentages of Ph1-positive blood cells as determined by cytogenetic analyses of bone marrow samples, BCR-ABL protein expression in blood cells decreased or increased as patients entered remission or underwent relapse. Of interest, six Ph1-negative CML patients were BCR-ABL protein-positive. All except one had a rearrangement in the major breakpoint cluster region and that patient expressed P185 BCR-ABL and not P210. Our results indicate that the BCR- ABL Western blotting assay has clinical applications for both diagnosis and prospective evaluation of Ph1-positive and Ph1-negative CML patients.

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