Pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML) comprises ∼20% of pediatric leukemia, representing one of the major therapeutic challenges in pediatric oncology with the current overall survival remains to be ∼60%. As for the molecular pathogenesis of pediatric AML, it has been well established that gene fusions generated by recurrent chromosomal translocations, including t(15;17), t(8;21), inv(16) and t(9;11), play critical roles in leukemogenesis. However, they are not sufficient for leukemogenesis, indicating apparent need of additional genetic hits, and approximately 20% of pediatric AML cases lack any detectable chromosomal abnormalities (normal karyotype AML). Currently, a number of gene mutations have been implicated in the pathogenesis of both adult and pediatric AML, including mutations of RAS, KIT and FLT3, and more recently, a new class of mutational targets have been reported in adult AML, including CEBPA, NPM1, DNMT3A, IDH1/2, TET2 and EZH2. However, mutations of the latter class of gene targets seem to be rare in pediatric AML cases, whereas other abnormalities such as a NUP98-NSD1 fusion are barely found in adult cases, indicating the discrete pathogenesis between both AML at least in their subsets. Meanwhile, the recent development of massively parallel sequencing technologies has provided a new opportunity to discover genetic changes across the entire genomes or protein-coding sequences in human cancers at a single-nucleotide level, which could be successfully applied to the genetic analysis of pediatric AML to obtain a better understanding of its pathogenesis.
In order to reveal a complete registry of gene mutations and other genetic lesions, we performed whole exome sequencing of paired tumor-normal specimens from 23 pediatric AML cases using Illumina HiSeq 2000. Although incapable of detecting non-coding mutations and gene rearrangements, the whole-exome approach is a well-established strategy for obtaining comprehensive spectrum of protein-coding mutations. Recurrently mutated genes were further examined for mutations in an extended cohort of 200 pediatric AML samples, using deep sequencing, in which the prevalence and relative allele frequencies of mutations were investigated.
Whole-exome sequencing of paired tumor-normal DNA from 23 patients were analyzed with a mean coverage of more than x120, and 90 % of the target sequences were analyzed at more than x20 depth on average. A total of 237 somatic mutations or 10.3 mutations per sample were identified. Many of the recurrent mutations identified in this study involved previously reported targets in adult AML, such as FLT3, CEBPA, KIT, CBL, NRAS, WT1, MLL3, BCOR, BCORL1, EZH2, and major cohesin components including XXX and ZZZ. On the other hand, several genes were newly identified in the current study, including BRAF, CUL2 and COL4A5, which were validated for the clinical significance in an extended cohort of 200 pediatric cases.
Whole exome sequencing unmasked a complexity of gene mutations in pediatric AML genomes. Our results indicated that a subset of pediatric AML represents a discrete entity that could be discriminated from the adult counterpart, in terms of the spectrum of gene mutations.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.