Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Flow cytometry for clinical estimation of circulating hematopoietic progenitors for autologous transplantation in cancer patients

  1. S Siena,
  2. M Bregni,
  3. B Brando,
  4. N Belli,
  5. F Ravagnani,
  6. L Gandola,
  7. AC Stern,
  8. PM Lansdorp,
  9. G Bonadonna, and
  10. AM Gianni
  1. Cristina Gandini Transplantation Unit, Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milan, Italy.


Optimum methods of harvesting circulating hematopoietic progenitors for autologous transplantation to support myeloablative cancer therapy are still uncertain, mostly because of the lack of an assay for marrow- repopulating stem cells. The CFU-GM assay, the commonly used indirect indicator of the quality of the graft, is poorly standardized and provides results evaluable only retrospectively. Based on the knowledge that hematopoietic progenitors express CD34 and CD33 differentiation antigens, we developed a dual-color direct immunofluorescence flow cytometry assay with the aim of replacing the CFU-GM assay advantageously. For this purpose, we applied both assays to 157 blood samples obtained daily throughout 20 different recoveries from pancytopenia induced by high-dose cyclophosphamide or etoposide cancer therapy with or without recombinant human GM colony-stimulating factor (rhGM-CSF). The appearance of CD34+ cells in the circulation indicated that hematopoietic progenitors had increased to more than 500 CFU- GM/mL, a level clinically adequate for large-scale harvest by leukapheresis. Total CD34+ cells correlated well with CFU-GM (r = .89), and data could be fitted by a linear regression line described by the equation y = 388.3 + 64.0x, where y = CFU-GM/mL and x = CD34+ cells per microliter. Moreover, in a series of six patients treated with myeloablative chemoradiotherapy, early hematopoietic recovery of marrow functions was predicted more accurately by the number of transplanted CD34+/CD33+ cells than by either total nucleated cells, CFU-GM, CD34+/CD33- cells, or CD34-/CD33+ cells. Data presented in this article favor clinical use of the CD34/CD33 flow cytometry assay to guide harvesting of circulating hematopoietic progenitors for autologous transplantation and contribute to better understanding of the role played by circulating hematopoietic progenitor cell subsets in marrow recovery after myeloablative cancer therapy.