INTRODUCTION: Several studies have reported the presence of expanded T-cell clones in patients with multiple myeloma (MM), which could be involved in an anti-tumour response and extended survival. The Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) system seems to play an essential role in MM control and could influence disease control. This feature has been poorly studied and there are only few data favouring higher incidence of some HLA specifities such as B18 and B5 in myeloma patients.

AIM: To compare HLA-DRB1 phenotypic frequencies in smoldering MM versus symptomatic MM patients and control individuals.

PATIENTS: A total of 181 patients with a diagnosis of MM were analysed. According to their behaviour patients were classified into two subsets: 128 symptomatic MM who were homogeneously treated according to the GEM-2000 protocol (Spanish Myeloma Group/PETHEMA protocol) and 53 patients with the diagnosis of smoldering MM according to the criteria of the International Myeloma Working Group and who were free of therapy for at least 1 year following diagnosis. Additionally, 1818 healthy donor individuals from the Castilla y Leon registry for hematopoietic stem cell-transplantation were included as control population. All three populations involved Caucasian individuals.

METHODS: After genomic DNA extraction, HLA-DRB1 typing at low-resolution level (two digits) was carried out using the PCR-rSSO methodology according to the standards of the European Federation of Immunogenetics. Allele frequencies were estimated by direct counting. Comparisons of allele and phenotype frequencies between populations were performed with the two-sided Fisher’s exact test using GraphPad Prism 4.0 Software. The strength of associations was estimated by the odds ratio (OR), and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated by Cornfield methods (values of p < 0.05 were considered statistically significant). P-value was corrected (Pc) for the number of valid comparisons made (Bonferroni correction).

RESULTS: DRB1 phenotypic frequencies were not significantly different among MM patients and healthy control individual. In contrast, when the two MM cohorts were analyzed, DRB1*01 phenotypic frequencies were significantly higher in the smoldering patients as compared to symptomatic MM patients (37.7% vs. 14.1, p=0.0011, Pc=0.0143, OR: 3.7, 95% CI: 1.76–7.81). Furthermore, DRB1*01 phenotypic frequencies were significantly higher in the smoldering patients as compared to the healthy control individuals (37.7% vs. 21.7%, p=0.0106, Pc>0.05, OR: 2.19, 95% CI: 1.24–3.86). In addition, symptomatic MM patients showed a higher incidence in DRB1*07 phenotypic frequencies as compared to control population (38.3% vs. 27.6%, p=0.0111, Pc>0.05, OR: 1.63, 95% CI: 1.12–2.36).

CONCLUSIONS: The present data suggest that HLA-DRB1*01 phenotype is associated with indolent MM and this may reflect a better ability to efficiently present myeloma-related antigens to immunocompetent cells.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.