The past 40 years have witnessed major advances in defining the cytogenetic aberrations, mutational landscape, epigenetic profiles, and expression changes underlying hematological malignancies. Although it has become apparent that acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is highly heterogeneous at the molecular level, the standard framework for risk stratification guiding transplant practice in this disease remains largely based on pretreatment assessment of cytogenetics and a limited panel of molecular genetic markers, coupled with morphological assessment of bone marrow (BM) blast percentage after induction. However, application of more objective methodology such as multiparameter flow cytometry (MFC) has highlighted the limitations of morphology for reliable determination of remission status. Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence that detection of subclinical levels of leukemia (ie, minimal residual disease, MRD) using MFC or molecular-based approaches provides powerful independent prognostic information. Consequently, there is increasing interest in the use of MRD detection to provide early end points in clinical trials and to inform patient management. However, implementation of MRD assessment into clinical practice remains a major challenge, hampered by differences in the assays and preferred analytical methods employed between routine laboratories. Although this should be addressed through adoption of standardized assays with external quality control, it is clear that the molecular heterogeneity of AML coupled with increasing understanding of its clonal architecture dictates that a “one size fits all” approach to MRD detection in this disease is not feasible. However, with the range of platforms now available, there is considerable scope to realistically track treatment response in every patient.
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