BMC Cancer 2019 Aug 14;19(1):809. Epub 2019 Aug 14.
Department of Haematology, Toulouse-Oncopole University Cancer Institute (IUCT-O), 1 Avenue Irene Joliot-Curie, 31059, Toulouse, France.
Background: Eradication of minimal residual disease (MRD), at the end of Fludarabine-Cyclophosphamide-Rituximab (FCR) treatment, is a validated surrogate marker for progression-free and overall survival in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. But such deep responses are also associated with severe immuno-depletion, leading to infections and the development of secondary cancers.
Methods: We assessed, blood MRD and normal immune cell levels at the end of treatment, in 162 first-line FCR patients, and analysed survival and adverse event.
Results: Multivariate Landmark analysis 3 months after FCR completion identified unmutated IGHV status (HR, 2.03, p = 0.043), the level of MRD reached (intermediate versus low, HR, 2.43, p = 0.002; high versus low, HR, 4.56, p = 0.002) and CD4 > 200/mm (HR, 3.30, p < 0.001) as factors independently associated with progression-free survival (PFS); neither CD8 nor NK counts were associated with PFS. The CD4 count was associated with PFS irrespective of IGHV mutational status, but only in patients with detectable MRD (HR, 3.51, p = 0.0004, whereas it had no prognostic impact in MRD < 10 patients: p = 0.6998). We next used a competitive risk model to investigate whether immune cell subsets could be associated with the risk of infection and found no association between CD4, CD8 and NK cells and infection.
Conclusions: Consolidation/maintenance trials based on detectable MRD after FCR should investigate CD4 T-cell numbers both as a selection and a response criterion, and consolidation treatments should target B-cell/T-cell interactions.