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Sunday 01 December 2002

Recurrent B-cell neoplasms after Rituximab therapy: an immunophenotypic and genotypic study.

By: Chu PG, Chen YY, Molina A, Arber DA, Weiss LM.

Leuk Lymphoma 2002 Dec;43(12):2335-41

Rituximab has been widely used to treat relapsing or advanced stage B-cell neoplasms with an efficacy of about 50%. However, approximately 40-50% of Rituximab treated patients will recur. It is not clear whether these recurrent diseases have the same immunophenotype as that of the original tumors. At the City of Hope, we treated 91 cases of CD20-positive B-cell neoplasms with Rituximab in combination with chemotherapy and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation between August 1999 and December 2000. Thirty-five of 91 patients (38%) experienced recurrence during the time period within one year from treatment. Tumor cells from all of the recurrent patients expressed one or more B cell antigens (CD19, CD20, CD22, CD45RA, or CD79a). However, thirteen of 35 recurrent cases showed aberrant loss of CD20 expression (37%) by immunohistochemical or flow cytometric studies. Pre- and post-Rituximab treated tumor cell DNA was successfully extracted from archival paraffin sections, hematoxylin and eosin (H and E) stained slides, smears, or frozen cells in 10 of 13 CD20 negative recurrent cases. PCR studies for immunoglobulin (Ig) heavy chain gene rearrangements were performed in all these cases. Five cases showed identical Ig heavy chain gene rearrangements in the paired specimens. PCR assay for Ig kappa (kappa) gene rearrangement was performed in the five paired specimens lacking detectable Ig heavy chain gene rearrangements; 2 of them showed identical Igkappa gene rearrangements. Three pairs showed unmatched Ig heavy chain and Igkappa gene rearrangements, probably due to poor quality of recovered DNA. Aberrant loss of CD20 antigens may be a mechanism of treatment resistance and should be considered in the immunophenotyping of recurrent Rituximab-treated B-cell neoplasms; therefore, a panel of B cell markers is recommended for the immunologic diagnosis of recurrent B cell malignancies after Rituximab therapy. Seven of ten pairs of recurrent CD20-negative cases showed identical Ig heavy chain and Igkappa gene rearrangements by PCR assay, strongly suggesting that the pre- and post-Rituxan treated B cell neoplasms are clonally-related.

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