Detection of circulating myeloma cells (CMCs) by flow cytometry in patients with multiple myeloma (MM) indicates active disease. We hypothesized that detection of CMCs at the time of stem-cell collection prior to autologous stem-cell transplantation (ASCT) identifies patients at high risk of rapid progression. A cohort of patients undergoing ASCT was identified. CMCs were determined by gating on CD38+/CD45- cells using flow cytometry. The impact of CMCs on overall survival (OS) and time to progression (TTP) was evaluated in univariate and multivariate analyses. Of 246 patients undergoing ASCT, 95 had CMCs. Complete response (CR) rates after transplantation were 32% and 36% for patients with and without CMCs, respectively (P = .50). OSs were 33.2 and 58.6 months (P = .01) whereas TTPs were 14.1 and 22 months, respectively (P = .001). On multivariate analysis, CMCs remained independent of cytogenetics and disease status at time of transplantation (P = .03). CMCs and cytogenetics were combined in a new scoring system. Patients with neither, one, or both parameters had a median OS of 55, 48, and 21.5 months and a median TTP of 22, 15.4, and 6.5 months, respectively. CMCs at the time of ASCT is an independent prognostic factor and in combination with cytogenetics provides a powerful scoring system that stratifies patients and guides management.
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