Genetic and clinical characterization of 45 acute leukemia patients with MLL gene rearrangements from a single institution.
Chromosomal rearrangements affecting the MLL gene are associated with high-risk pediatric, adult and therapy-associated acute leukemia. In this study, conventional cytogenetic, fluorescence in situ hybridization, and molecular genetic studies were used to characterize the type and frequency of MLL rearrangements in a consecutive series of 45 Portuguese patients with MLL-related leukemia treated in a single institution between 1998 and 2011. In the group of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and an identified MLL fusion partner, 47% showed the presence of an MLL-AFF1 fusion, as a result of a t(4;11). In the remaining cases, a MLL-MLLT3 (27%), a MLL-MLLT1 (20%), or MLL-MLLT4 (7%) rearrangement was found. The most frequent rearrangement found in patients with acute myeloid leukemia was the MLL-MLLT3 fusion (42%), followed by MLL-MLLT10 (23%), MLL-MLLT1 (8%), MLL-ELL (8%), MLL-MLLT4 (4%), and MLL-MLLT11 (4%). In three patients, fusions involving MLL and a septin family gene (SEPT2, SEPT6, and SEPT9), were identified. The most frequently identified chromosomal rearrangements were reciprocal translocations, but insertions and deletions, some cryptic, were also observed. In our series, patients with MLL rearrangements were shown to have a poor prognosis, regardless of leukemia subtype. Interestingly, children with 1 year or less showed a statistically significant better overall survival when compared with both older children and adults. The use of a combined strategy in the initial genetic evaluation of acute leukemia patients allowed us to characterize the pattern of MLL rearrangements in our institution, including our previous discovery of two novel MLL fusion partners, the SEPT2 and CT45A2 genes, and a very rare MLL-MLLT4 fusion variant.