Minimal residual disease (MRD)

Minimum residual disease (MRD) refers to a tiny quantity of leukemia cells remaining in the body, in quantities small enough that a patient may appear to be in remission. Until somewhat recently tests were not sensitive enough to detect MRD, but modern technology allows oncologists to detect as few as 1 cancerous cell in a million healthy cells.

These residual cancerous cells are the most common cause of relapse in leukemia – even tiny quantities lurking in the body after treatment can cause the disease to come back in full – so the ability to detect MRD is essential for determining the success of treatment, and whether additional, more aggressive measures such as BMT are necessary.

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