Unravelling the cellular origin and clinical prognostic markers of infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia using genome-wide analysis.
Agraz-Doblas A., Bueno C., Bashford-Rogers R., Roy A., Schneider P., Bardini M., Ballerini P., Cazzaniga G., Moreno T., Revilla C., Gut M., Valsecchi MG., Roberts I., Pieters R., De Lorenzo P., Varela I., Menendez P., Stam RW.
B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the commonest childhood cancer. In infants, B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia remains fatal, especially in patients with t(4;11), present in ~80% of cases. The pathogenesis of t(4;11)/KMT2A-AFF1+ (MLL-AF4+) infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia remains difficult to model, and the pathogenic contribution in cancer of the reciprocal fusions resulting from derivative translocated-chromosomes remains obscure. Here, a multi-layered genome-wide analyses and validation was performed on a total of 124 de novo infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias uniformly diagnosed/treated according to Interfant99/06 protocol. These patients showed the most silent mutational landscape reported so far for any sequenced pediatric cancer. Recurrent mutations were exclusively found in K- and N-RAS, and were subclonal and frequently lost at relapse, despite a larger number of non-recurrent/non-silent mutations. Unlike non-MLL-rearranged B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias, B-cell receptor repertoire analysis revealed minor, non-expanded B-cell clones in t(4;11)+ infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and RNA-sequencing showed transcriptomic similarities between t(4;11)+ infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias and the most immature human fetal liver hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells, confirming a pre-VDJ fetal cellular origin for both t(4;11) and RASmut. The reciprocal fusion AF4-MLL was expressed in only 45% (19/43) of the t(4;11)+ patients, and HOXA cluster genes are exclusively expressed in AF4-MLL-expressing patients. Importantly, AF4-MLL/HOXA-expressing patients had a significantly better 4-year event-free survival (62.4% vs 11.7%, p=0.001), and overall-survival (73.7 versus 25.2%, p=0.016). AF4-MLL expression retained its prognostic significance when analyzed in a Cox model adjusting for risk stratification according to Interfant-06 protocol based on age at diagnosis, WBC count and Prednisone response. This study has clinical implications in disease outcome and diagnostic risk-stratification of t(4;11)+ infant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.