Although previous studies in APL have revealed that the FlT3-ITD mutation is associated with an elevated presenting WBC count, hypogranular variant (M3v) morphology and the short (bcr3) isoform of PML-RARA, the prognostic significance of FlT3 mutations in APL has not been firmly established. We report an update of these patients with a median follow-up of 9 years in which we observed that the presence at baseline of the FlT3-ITD mutation confers a very poor overall survival (OS). One hundred and forty-seven patients with newly diagnosed APL were observed and treated with the AIDA (73 patients) and AIDA2000 protocols (74 patients) at the Sapienza University of Rome during the period April 1993-October 2010. Diagnosis was initially established morphologically and subsequently confirmed in all cases by RT-PCR. The following clinical characteristics at diagnosis were analyzed according to the FlT3 status: age, sex, FAB classification, peripheral WBC and platelet count, hemoglobin, karyotype, PML/RAR isoform and relapse risk. For statistical analysis, the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test was used to compare non-parametric series and the Fisher’s exact test to compare categories. OS was estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method, whereas relapse-free considered as events relapse and death in CR. Thirty-three patients were identified as FlT3+, 19 were males (57%) and 14 were females; 27% had a variant type according to the FAB classification and 36% were classified as high-risk. Twenty-one FlT3+ patients (63%) presented the bcr3 transcript compared to 37/114 (32%) FlT3- patients (p=0.002). Eight FlT3+ patients (24%) experienced a differentiation syndrome compared to 14 (12%) in the negative cohort (p=0.02). After a median follow-up of 9 years (range 5-19), we could document a significant worse long-term outcome for FlT3+ patients: OS was 96% in the FlT3- cohort compared to 39% in the FlT3+ cohort (p=0.0001), relapse-free survival (RFS) 90% in FlT3- patients vs 30% in the FlT3+ ones (p=0.017), CIR at 9 years was 4% (95% CI, 1,279-6,238) for the FLT3-negative cohort and 60% (95% CI,22.632-81.236) for the FLT3-positive subset (p=0.0001). While this study confirms that there is no difference in response to induction with the AIDA schedule in FlT3+ APL patients, the longest follow-up so fare reported has allowed to demonstrate the significantly worse long-term outcome for this subset of APL, in terms of OS, RFS and DFS. Further studies aimed at investigating whether other clonal mutations may play a role in this unfavorable subset of patients are needed.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.