Key Points

  • While BCL2 CNVs produce abberant expression, MYC CNVs do not, and neither MYC nor BCL2 CNVs confer a similar biology as HGBL-DH/TH-BCL2.

  • MYC-N11S polymorphism is associated with false negative IHC staining - a mechanism of IHC negativity in MYC rearranged tumors.

When the WHO defined high-grade B-cell lymphoma with MYC and BCL2 and/or BCL6 rearrangements (HGBL-DH/TH) as a clinical category, rearrangements were the only structural variant (SV) incorporated. An "atypical double-hit" entity has been proposed, encompassing tumors with concurrent MYC and BCL2 SVs other than co-occurring translocations - i.e. copy number variations (CNVs). While the identification of a gene expression signature (DHITsig) shared among tumors harboring MYC and BCL2 rearrangements (HGBL-DH/TH-BCL2) has confirmed a shared underlying biology, the biological implication of MYC and BCL2 CNVs requires further elucidation. We performed a comprehensive analysis of MYC and BCL2 SVs, as determined by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), in a cohort of 802 de novo tumors with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) morphology. While BCL2 CNVs were associated with increased expression, MYC CNVs were not. Furthermore, MYC and BCL2 CNVs, in the context of atypical double-hit, did not confer a similar gene expression profile as HGBL-DH/TH-BCL2. Finally, while MYC IHC has been proposed as a screening tool for FISH testing, two mechanisms were observed that uncoupled MYC rearrangement from IHC positivity. 1) low MYC mRNA expression and 2) false-negative immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining mediated by a single nucleotide polymorphism resulting in an asparagine to serine substitution at the 11th amino acid residue of MYC (MYC-N11S). Taken together, these results support the current exclusion of MYC and BCL2 CNVs from HGBL-DH/TH and highlight the ability of a molecular based classification system to identify tumors with shared biology that FISH and IHC fail to fully capture.

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