There are few established factors that predict risk of follicular lymphoma (FL) transformation, and only two studies have evaluated the role of germline genetic variation and risk of transformation. One study reported an association of a BCL6 SNP (397C>G) with risk of transformation, and a second study reported an association with rs6457327, which is in the HLA region of 6p21. This study evaluated the risk of FL transformation in the modern treatment era with germline SNPs that were previously reported to be associated with FL transformation (BCL6SNPs and rs6457327), along with SNPs (N=45) previously associated with either risk of FL or FL prognosis.
Newly diagnosed FL patients were prospectively enrolled from 2002–2009 into the Molecular Epidemiology Resource of the University of Iowa/Mayo Clinic Lymphoma SPORE. Peripheral blood for genotyping was collected at enrollment, and clinical and treatment data were abstracted from medical records. All patients were actively followed for disease progression, retreatment, transformation and death. For this analysis, only FL patients with grade I-IIIa were included. Patients with composite DLBCL, FL grade IIIb, or other evidence of transformation at diagnosis were excluded. Transformation was based on either 1) biopsy confirmation of FL grade IIIb, DLBCL, or higher grade B-cell lymphoma; or 2) clinical indicators of transformation based on the published literature, including sudden rise in LDH, rapid discordant localized nodal growth, new involvement of unusual extranodal sites, new B-symptoms, or hypercalcemia. Genotyping was conducted using a custom Illumina iSelect panel. Cox regression was used to estimate Hazard Ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for individual SNPs with time to transformation, with death modeled as a competing risk. Each SNP was modeled with the most prevalent homozygous genotype used as the reference group, and each SNP was modeled as having a log-additive (per minor allele) effect in the regression model. An ordinal test was used to assess the trend, and p<0.05 was considered statistically significant.
There were 631 newly diagnosed grade I-IIIa FL patients, of whom 532 had DNA and were successfully genotyped. The median age at diagnosis was 60 years (range 23–93) and 53% were male. FLIPI distribution was 42% 0–1, 34% 2 and 24% 3–5. Initial therapies included observation (32%), rituximab (R) monotherapy (13%), alkylator-based chemotherapy +/− R (20%), and anthracycline-based chemotherapy +/− R (19%). At a median of 59 months of follow-up (range, 11–110), 58 patients died, 254 had an event (death, progression or retreatment) and 54 patients (10%) transformed. Transformation was biopsy proven in 43 of the 54 patients (80%). The SNP rs6457327 on chromosome 6p that was previously reported to be associated with transformation was positively associated with risk of transformation in our data (HR=1.40; 95%CI 0.97–2.04; p=0.07), although this association was weaker but still consistent with the prior report. Further, we evaluated additional typed SNPs from the HLA region of 6p, and found additional associations (p<0.05) with HLA-DRA (3 SNPs), HLA-DQA2 (2 SNPs), HLA-DOA (2 SNPs) and HLA-DPB1/HLA-DPA2 (2 SNPs), of which rs10484569 from HLA-DPB1/HLA-DPA2 was the most strongly associated with risk of transformation (HR=3.01; 95%CI 1.48–6.09; p=0.002). None of the BCL6 or other previously reported risk SNPs were associated with transformation. Of the SNPs previously associated with FL prognosis, only the FCGR2A rs1801274 (HR=1.41; 95%CI 0.94–2.10; p=0.09) and CD46 (CD46 molecule, complement regulatory protein) rs2466571 (HR=1.72; 95%CI 1.16–2.55; p=0.007) were associated with risk of transformation. For CD46, one additional SNP (rs2796269) was also associated with transformation (HR=0.61; 95%CI 0.40–0.95; p=0.03). Further adjustment for FLIPI score and treatment (observation versus all other) did not alter these associations.
The previously reported association of rs6457327 with risk of transformation in the modern treatment era was replicated. In addition, several HLA loci and two FL prognosis SNPs were linked to transformation risk. The remaining published FL risk or prognosis SNPs were not associated with transformation. Our results support a role for germline genetic variation in the HLA region, FCRGR2A and CD46 in transformation of FL.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.