Significance of detection of occult non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in histologically uninvolved bone marrow by a culture technique

J. G. Sharp, S. S. Joshi, J. O. Armitage, P. Bierman, P. F. Coccia, D. S. Harrington, A. Kessinger, D. A. Crouse, S. L. Mann, D. D. Weisenburger

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117 Scopus citations


Prolonged disease-free survival of patients with recurrent or resistant non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) has been achieved with high-dose therapy followed by autologous bone marrow transplantation (ABMT). A concern with the use of ABMT is that the marrow that is reinfused may contain undetected NHL cells with the potential to reestablish metastatic disease in the recipient. Using a culture technique that is sensitive for detecting occult lymphoma cells in BM, we analyzed histologically normal marrow harvests from 59 consecutive patients with intermediate- or high-grade NHL who were candidates for high-dose therapy and ABMT. The culture results indicated that 22 of the patients had occult lymphoma in their marrow. Forty-three patients underwent high-dose therapy followed by ABMT. Twenty-four achieved a complete clinical remission. Those with occult lymphoma in their harvests (11 patients) continued to relapse for up to 3 years, whereas no relapses were observed beyond 8 months in 13 patients receiving marrow that did not contain detectable lymphoma cells using the culture technique. The relapses in the patients who achieved a complete remission occurred at sites of prior bulky disease rather than at new sites, suggesting that the ability to detect occult lymphoma cells in marrow is a marker of biologic aggressiveness and/or resistance to therapy, or that the reinfused cells could only grow in previously involved sites. The detection of lymphoma cells in marrow used for ABMT is an important adverse prognostic factor, and appears to be independent of other clinical predictors of outcome such as sensitivity or resistance of disease to prior chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1074-1080
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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