Failure of initial remission-induction therapy and disease recurrence remains a major problem in the management of acute leukemia, however the nature of the biologic factors promoting relapse are incompletely understood. To identify genomic abnormalities associated with relapse, we performed high-resolution, genome-wide analysis of DNA copy number abnormalities and loss-of heterozygosity using Affymetrix single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarrays in 33 cases of relapsed acute leukemia. Sixteen ALL (2 ETV6-RUNX1, 2 MLL rearranged, 6 pseudodiploid or cytogenetically normal B-progenitor ALL, and 6 T-lineage) and 17 AML (two RUNX1-RUNX1T1 [AML1-ETO], two MLL-rearranged, one M7, and 12 with normal karyotype or miscellaneous cytogenetic abnormalities) were studied. Samples with less than 80% blasts were flow sorted to at least 90% purity prior to DNA extraction. Diagnostic samples were available for all cases, and germline samples for 22. DNA copy number and LOH analysis was performed using Affymetrix 250k Nsp and Sty arrays was performed for all samples. Data were analysed using a karyotype-guided normalization algorithm, dChipSNP, and circular binary segmentation. In a detailed comparative analysis of paired diagnostic and relapse samples, changes in DNA copy number abnormalities were identified in the relapse sample in 14 of 16 (87.5%) ALL cases. A striking finding was loss of copy number lesions present at diagnosis in 8/16 ALL relapse samples, and the acquisition of new copy number lesions in 4 of these 8 samples. In each case, the pattern of deletions at antigen receptor loci was comparable between relapse and diagnosis, suggesting the emergence of a related leukemic clone, rather than the development of a distinct second leukemia. An additional 8 ALL relapse samples retained the copy number lesions present at diagnosis, but 6 of these acquired additional copy number abnormalities at relapse, a finding further suggestive of significant clonal evolution. Of the newly acquired copy number abnormalities in the relapse samples, deletions (62.5% of cases) were more common than gains (12.5%). In constrast to ALL a more restricted range of copy number abnormalities was seen in AML, with new abnormalities at relapse seen in 5/17 (29.4%) cases, and deletions (29.4%) outnumbering gains (17.6%). The loss of lesions present at diagnosis was only observed in two AML relapse samples. Examining the entire cohort, the CDKN2A/B locus was most commonly involved (N=5), gains of 1q were noted in two cases, otherwise all observed copy number changes were noted in single cases only, and included focal deletions of ERG and RUNX1. Copy neutral loss of heterozygosity was uncommon, with the exception of three AML cases with UPD of the entire chromosome 13. These observations indicate that relapse is frequently the result of the emergence of a leukemic clone that shows significant genetic differences from the diagnostic clone. Whether these represent rare clones present at the time of diagnosis or are the emergence of new clones as the result of ongoing genomic abnormalities can now be determined using genomic probes specific for the newly acquired deletions.

Author notes

Disclosure:Research Funding: Roche-sponsored gene expression profiling research unrelated to the current studies. St Jude co-owns a pending patent application with the University of Mississippi (Pub. No 2004/0018513) drawn to gene expression profiling which has been nonexclusively licensed to Affymetrix. Membership Information: Board of Scientific Consultants for the memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (J.R.D.). C.G.M. presented at an Affymetrix Symposium in 2007.