Using Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) as a model, our aim has been to develop a molecular cytogenetic method of high resolution analysis for monitoring the frequency of cells with nonrandom chromosome rearrangements in the bone marrow of patients receiving treatment for hematologic malignancies. Long-term exposure (24 hours) of bone marrow cultures to colcemid (0.1 microgram/mL) maximized a high frequency of metaphase collection. Such preparations were subjected to fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) using a 5 Mb probe that overlapped the region of the translocation at chromosome 9q34. This detected the Ph translocation in the resultant large number of overly contracted chromosome spreads. The procedure was validated and verified by studying 70 double-blind marrow samples from patients in different stages of Ph+ CML and from patients with Ph- hematologic malignancies (controls). This hypermetaphase FISH (HMF) method clearly identified Ph+ metaphases and allowed the analysis of 500 hypermetaphases per sample in less than 1 hour after FISH. HMF (1) identified statistically significant differences between the frequencies of Ph+ cells in samples that differed by less than 4%; (2) resolved such differences among patient samples that were all judged 100% Ph+ by standard G-band cytogenetics (CG); (3) resulted in the reclassification of response status in 23% of the patients initially classified by CG; (4) recognized Ph+ cells in 16% of patients characterized as having a complete cytogenetic response and in one patient with an original diagnosis of Ph- CML; and in one patient with an original diagnosis of Ph- CML; and (5) was informative where insufficient metaphases were obtainable for analysis by CG. HMF appears to be uniquely suitable for monitoring the status of patients with CML receiving treatment. It should also be applicable for patients with any hematologic diseases where chromosomal alterations are known and appropriate FISH probes are available.

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