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Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is a clinically and biologically heterogeneous disease with a high proliferation rate and infrequent somatic mutations of TP53 and genes encoding cell cycle pathway components. Despite recent advances in the molecular understanding of DLBCL pathogenesis, clinical models such as the International Prognostic Index (IPI) are still used to identify high-risk patients.
By integrating high-resolution high-density SNP array data with transcriptional profiles and performing pathway analysis in 180 primary DLBCLs, we identified a comprehensive set of copy number alterations (CNAs) that decreased p53 activity and perturbed cell cycle regulation. Primary DLBCLs with single copy loss of 17p13.1 (TP53/RPL26/KDM6B) often had CNAs of an additional p53 modifier – 9p21.3 (CDKN2A/ARF), 19q13.42 (BCL2L12), 12q15 (MDM2) or 1q23.3 (MDM4/RFWD2). CNAs of the respective p53 modifiers, CDKN2A (ARF, 9p21.3), MDM2 (12q15) and MDM4/RFWD2 (1q23.3), occurred in largely separate groups of tumors. DLBCLs with CNAs of p53 pathway members frequently exhibited concurrent alterations of additional cell cycle components such as CCND3 (6p21.32), CDK6 (7q22.1), CDK2/CDK4 (12q15) and/or RB1 (13q14.2) or RBL2 (16q12.2).
When the primary DLBCLs were clustered in the space of CNAs that perturb p53 pathway and cell cycle components, 66% of tumors had multiple alterations (“complex” pattern) whereas the remaining 34% of tumors lacked these lesions (“clean” signature). Tumors with “complex” alterations of p53 pathway and cell cycle components also had more total CNAs and more frequent TP53 mutations, highlighting the association between p53 deficiency, cell cycle deregulation and increased genomic instability in DLBCL. The patterns of “complex” vs. “clean” CNAs of p53 pathway and cell cycle components and the association between the “complex” signature and total CNAs were confirmed in an independent series of primary DLBCLs.
To further characterize DLBCLs with “complex” vs. “clean” CNA patterns, we performed gene set enrichment analyses with publicly available series of p53 target genes and a RB-deficiency gene set which included multiple E2F targets. The p53 target transcripts were significantly less abundant in “complex” DLBCLs, directly linking their genetic signature of p53 deficiency with decreased p53 activity. Furthermore, the RB-deficiency gene set was significantly enriched in “complex” DLBCLs suggesting that these tumors had increased E2F-mediated cell cycle progression. Consistent with these observations, DLBCLs with “complex” CNA patterns also had significantly higher proliferation indices as determined by Ki67 immunostaining.
We next assessed the prognostic significance of the “complex” CNA pattern in the subset of patients who were treated with R-CHOP (rituxan, cyclophosphamide, adriamycin, oncovin, prednisone) and had long-term follow-up. R-CHOP treated patients with “complex” CNA patterns had a 5-year overall survival of only 62%; in contrast, those with “clean” CNA signatures had an 100% overall survival (p =.001). The association between CN complexity and outcome was independent of transcriptionally defined categories and additive to the clinical IPI risk model.
Taken together, these data provide a structural basis for deregulated cell cycle, increased cellular proliferation and unfavorable outcome in DLBCL and suggest targeted treatment strategies.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.