Globally, > 5–10 million people are estimated to be infected with Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), of whom ~ 5% develop adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL). Despite advances in chemotherapy, overall survival (OS) has not improved in the 35 years since HTLV-1 was first described. In Europe/USA, combination treatment with zidovudine and interferon-α (ZDV/IFN-α) has substantially changed the management of patients with the leukemic subtypes of ATL (acute or unfavorable chronic ATL) and is under clinical trial evaluation in Japan. However, there is only a single published report of long-term clinical remission on discontinuing ZDV/IFN-α therapy and the optimal duration of treatment is unknown. Anecdotal cases where therapy is discontinued due to side effects or compliance have been associated with rapid disease relapse, and it has been widely accepted that the majority of patients will require life-long therapy. The development of molecular methods to quantify minimal residual disease is essential to potentially guide therapy for individual patients. Here, for the first time, we report molecular evidence that supports long-term clinical remission in a patient who was previously treated with ZDV/IFN-α for 5 years, and who has now been off all therapy for over 6 years.
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