Rearrangements of chromosome band 9p24 are known to be associated with JAK2 fusion genes, e.g., t(8;9)(p22;p24) with a PCM1-JAK2 and t(9;22)(p24;q11) with a BCR-JAK2 fusion gene, respectively. In association with myeloid neoplasms, the clinical course is aggressive, and in absence of effective conventional treatment options, long-term remission is usually only observed after allogeneic stem cell transplantation (ASCT). With the discovery of inhibitors of the JAK2 tyrosine kinase and based on encouraging in vitro and in vivo data, we treated two male patients with myeloid neoplasms and a PCM1-JAK2 or a BCR-JAK2 fusion gene, respectively, with the JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor ruxolitinib. After 12 months of treatment, both patients achieved a complete clinical, hematologic, and cytogenetic response. Non-hematologic toxicity was only grade 1 while no hematologic toxicity was observed. However, remission in both patients was only short-term, with relapse occurring after 18 and 24 months, respectively, making ASCT indispensable in both cases. This data highlight (1) the ongoing importance of cytogenetic analysis for the diagnostic work-up of myeloid neoplasms as it may guide targeted therapy and (2) remission under ruxolitinib may only be short-termed in JAK2 fusion genes but it may be an important bridging therapy prior to ASCT.
Fusion genes involving the catalytic domain of tyrosine kinases (TKs) play an important role in the pathogenesis of hematological malignancies and solid tumors. In BCR-ABL1-negative myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) several different tyrosine kinase fusion events have been described, most commonly involving the genes encoding the platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRA) or beta (PDGFRB). Since the introduction of small molecule kinase inhibitors, TK fusions have emerged as prime therapeutic targets. Here, we report a recurrent CEP85L-PDGFRB fusion in a patient with eosinophilia and an MPN. The fusion was confirmed by specific amplification of the genomic breakpoints and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The patient was treated with imatinib and achieved hematologic and cytogenetic remission. Minimal residual disease screening over 3 years with nested PCR failed to detect CEP85L-PDGFRB mRNA or genomic DNA, confirming a long-term molecular remission on imatinib.
Aberrant activation of tyrosine kinases, caused by either mutation or gene fusion, is of major importance for the development of many hematologic malignancies, particularly myeloproliferative neoplasms. We hypothesized that hitherto unrecognized, cytogenetically cryptic tyrosine kinase fusions may be common in non-classical or atypical myeloproliferative neoplasms and related myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasms.
Abnormalities of chromosome 7q are common in myeloid malignancies, but no specific target genes have yet been identified. Here, we describe the finding of homozygous EZH2 mutations in 9 of 12 individuals with 7q acquired uniparental disomy. Screening of a total of 614 individuals with myeloid disorders revealed 49 monoallelic or biallelic EZH2 mutations in 42 individuals; the mutations were found most commonly in those with myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasms (27 out of 219 individuals, or 12%) and in those with myelofibrosis (4 out of 30 individuals, or 13%). EZH2 encodes the catalytic subunit of the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), a highly conserved histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27) methyltransferase that influences stem cell renewal by epigenetic repression of genes involved in cell fate decisions. EZH2 has oncogenic activity, and its overexpression has previously been causally linked to differentiation blocks in epithelial tumors. Notably, the mutations we identified resulted in premature chain termination or direct abrogation of histone methyltransferase activity, suggesting that EZH2 acts as a tumor suppressor for myeloid malignancies.
Interferon alpha (IFN) induces variable responses in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), with 8-30% of early chronic phase cases achieving a complete cytogenetic response. We hypothesized that polymorphic differences in genes encoding IFN signal transduction components might account for different patient responses. We studied 174 IFN-treated patients, of whom 79 achieved less than 35% Philadelphia-chromosome (Ph) positive metaphases (responders) and 95 failed to show any cytogenetic response (more than 95% Ph-positive metaphases; non-responders). We compared 17 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at IFNAR1, IFNAR2, JAK1, TYK2, STAT1, STAT3 and STAT5a/b between the two groups and found a significant difference for rs6503691, a SNP tightly linked to STAT5a, STAT5b and STAT3 (minor allele frequency 0.16 for non-responders; 0.06 for responders, P=0.007). Levels of STAT3 mRNA correlated with rs6503691 genotype (P<0.001) as assessed by real time quantitative PCR and therefore we conclude that rs6503691 is associated with the STAT3 expression levels and response of CML patients to IFN.
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