Abstract 3933

Poster Board III-869


Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) is a malignancy of lymphocytes with few known risk factors identified to date. Members of the BCL2 and caspase gene families are known regulators of programmed cell death in these cells, and the t(14;18)(q32;q21) is the most commonly observed chromosomal translocation in NHL, a somatic event which results in constitutive BCL2 expression and inhibition of apoptosis. Further, recent pooled analyses of three case-control studies reported gene level associations for both BCL2L11 (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009;18:1259) and CASP9 (Blood 2009;114:264) with NHL risk. We therefore evaluated the hypothesis that germline variation in genes from the apoptosis pathway is associated with risk of developing NHL.


We genotyped 226 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within 36 candidate BCL2-family and capsase-family member genes within the apoptosis pathway in a clinic-based study of 441 newly diagnosed NHL cases (within 9 months of first NHL diagnosis) and 475 frequency matched controls from Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin who were seen at the Mayo Clinic from 2002-2005. Tagging SNPs were selected from HapMap for the following candidate genes: BCL2; BCLAF1; BCL2LA1; BCL2L1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14; BAD; BAX; BAG1, 3, 4, 5; BAK1; BID; BIK; BNIP2, 3; HRK; CASP1 – CASP10; APAF1; BIRC3; AIF1; and DFFB. Genotyping was completed using the ParAllele (now Affymetrix) Immune and Inflammation SNP panel, supplemented with 9 SNPs from a custom Illumina OPA. SNP call rate and per person call rate were >95% for all SNPs evaluated. The most prevalent homozygous genotype was used as the reference group, and each SNP was modeled individually as having a log-additive effect in a logistic regression model adjusted for age, sex, and residence. We used principal components analysis to assess the association with NHL risk at the gene level. Genes at p<0.05 were declared statistically significant, as were SNPs at p<0.05 from significant genes.


The mean age at diagnosis for cases was 60.1 years, and 58% were male; among controls, the mean age at enrollment into the study was 61.7 years, and 55% were male. The most common NHL subtypes were chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL, 29%), follicular lymphoma (FL, 27%), and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL, 16%). In gene level analyses, BCL2L11 (also know as BIM) (p=0.0019), BLCAF1 (p=0.0097), BAG5 (p=0.026), and CASP9 (p=0.0022) were statistically significant at p<0.05. For BCL2L11, 2 of the 5 tagSNPs (both intronic) were significant at p<0.05 (rs6746608 and rs12613243). Both genotyped BCLAF1 tagSNPs (rs797558 and rs703193, both intronic) were significant, as was the single genotyped BAG5 tagSNP (rs7042474) from the non-coding region interval of an mRNA transcript. Three of the 7 genotyped CASP9 tagSNPs were significant (rs6685648, rs2020902, rs2042370, all intronic). Similar associations (as assessed by ordinal odds ratios) were observed for significant SNPs from BCLAF1, BAG5, BCL2L11 and CASP9 within the subtypes of CLL/SLL, FL, and DLBCL; however, caution is warranted in interpreting the subtype results due to small sample sizes.


Three genes from the BCL2 family (BCL2L11, BCLAF1, and BAG5) and one gene from the caspase family (CASP9) were associated with risk of NHL. This confirms gene level results for BCL2L11 and CASP9 in NHL overall and suggests a role for additional BCL2 family members in NHL etiology. In addition to extending these results to other populations, investigation of the functional significance of these genes and consideration of their upstream regulators and downstream targets should assist in clarifying the role of this pathway in lymphomagenesis. Furthermore, in the era of targeted therapeutics, identification of genetic variation in the apoptotic pathway may also assist in predicting prognosis as therapies targeting this pathway are developed.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.