Reappraising prognosis in chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Abstract: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) exhibits remarkable clinical heterogeneity likely reflecting the underlying biological heterogeneity. The genetic landscape of CLL has been recently enriched with mutations within a number of genes proposed as novel prognostic markers. Mounting evidence also supports the pivotal role of the clonotypic B-cell receptor immunoglobulin (BcR IG) in the natural history of CLL. Interestingly, almost 30% of all CLL patients can be assigned to different patient subsets, each defined by expression of a distinct stereotyped BcR IG. Whether stereotyped subsets exhibit distinct clinical behavior is still an issue of debate. The aim of this thesis was to evaluate the prognostic relevance of recurrent gene mutations and to assess the clinicobiological associations and clinical impact of BcR IG stereotypy in CLL. In a cohort of 3490 patients, NOTCH1, SF3B1 and TP53 mutations were enriched within clinically aggressive cases carrying unmutated IGHV genes (U-CLL), frequently co-occurring with trisomy 12, del(11q) and del(17p), respectively. Of note, SF3B1 mutations increased in parallel with increasing timespan between diagnosis and mutational screening. NOTCH1 mutations, SF3B1 mutations and TP53 abnormalities (TP53abs, deletions and/or mutations) correlated with shorter time-to-first-treatment among early stage cases, while in multivariate analysis, only SF3B1 mutations and TP53abs retained independent significance. In a series of 8593 CLL patients, stereotyped subsets showed marked differences in demographics, clinical presentation, cytogenetic aberrations and gene mutational spectrum. Patients within a specific subset generally followed similar clinical courses, whereas patients in different stereotyped subsets—even when displaying similar IG somatic hypermutation status— experienced significantly different clinical outcome. In particular, subset #2 (IGHV3-21/IGLV3-21), the largest overall, was found to exhibit (i) a remarkably high incidence of SF3B1 mutations (44%), alluding to subset-biased acquisition of genomic aberrations, in the context of particular antigenic stimulation; and, (ii) a dismal clinical outcome, distinct from the remaining IGHV3-21 CLL. Our findings strongly support the adverse clinical impact of SF3B1 mutations in CLL in addition to TP53abs. BcR IG stereotypy also emerges as prognostically relevant, further highlighting that an immunogenetic sub-classification of CLL based on BcR IG configuration could refine patient risk stratification.
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