Minimal residual disease (MRD) is the name given to small numbers of leukaemic cells that remain in the patient during treatment, or after treatment when the patient is in remission (no symptoms or signs of disease). It is the major cause of relapse in cancer and leukaemia. Up until a decade ago, none of the tests used to assess or detect cancer were sensitive enough to detect MRD. Now, however, very sensitive molecular biology tests are available – based on DNA, RNA or proteins – and these can measure minute levels of cancer cells in tissue samples, sometimes as low as one cancer cell in a million normal cells.
In cancer treatment, particularly leukaemia, MRD testing has several important roles: determining whether treatment has eradicated the cancer or whether traces remain, comparing the efficacy of different treatments, monitoring patient remission status and recurrence of the leukaemia or cancer and choosing the treatment that will best meet those needs (personalization of treatment).
The tests are not simple, are often part of research or trials, and some have been accepted for routine clinical use.
Read more about Minimal Residual Disease: Background: The Problem of Minimal Residual Disease (MRD), Treatment
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