Bone marrow harvested for autologous bone-marrow transplantation may contain residual malignant cells even when it is judged to be in remission. Genetic marking and subsequent detection of these cells in recipients would give useful information about the origin of relapse after transplantation. We transferred the neomycin-resistance gene into bone-marrow cells harvested from children with acute myeloid leukaemia in remission. Two patients have relapsed since reinfusion of the marked cells. In both, the resurgent blast cells contained the neomycin-resistance gene marker; thus, remission marrow can contribute to disease recurrence. This method of tracking malignant cells should enable the development of better marrow purging strategies.
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