Abstract

Purpose:

The enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) is a histone methyltransferase and key epigenetic regulator involved in transcriptional repression and embryonic development. Loss of EZH2 activity by inactivating mutations is associated with poor prognosis in myeloid malignancies such as MDS. More recently, EZH2 inactivation was shown to induce chemoresistance in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) (Göllner et al., 2017). Data on the frequency and prognostic role of EZH2-mutations in AML are rare and mostly confined to smaller cohorts. To investigate the prevalence and prognostic impact of this alteration in more detail, we analyzed a large cohort of AML patients (n = 1604) for EZH2 mutations.

Patients and Methods:

All patients analyzed had newly diagnosed AML, were registered in clinical protocols of the Study Alliance Leukemia (SAL) (AML96, AML2003 or AML60+, SORAML) and had available material at diagnosis. Screening for EZH2 mutations and associated alterations was done using Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) (TruSight Myeloid Sequencing Panel, Illumina) on an Illumina MiSeq-system using bone marrow or peripheral blood. Detection was conducted with a defined cut-off of 5% variant allele frequency (VAF). All samples below the predefined threshold were classified as EZH2 wild type (wt). Patient clinical characteristics and co-mutations were analyzed according to the mutational status. Furthermore, multivariate analysis was used to identify the impact of EZH2 mutations on outcome.

Results:

EZH2-mutations were found in 63 of 1604 (4%) patients, with a median VAF of 44% (range 6-97%; median coverage 3077x). Mutations were detected within several exons (2-6; 8-12; 14-20) with highest frequencies in exons 17 and 18 (29%). The majority of detected mutations (71% missense and 29% nonsense/frameshift) were single nucleotide variants (SNVs) (87%), followed by small indel mutations. Descriptive statistics of clinical parameters and associated co-mutations revealed significant differences between EZH2-mut and -wt patients. At diagnosis, patients with EZH2 mutations were significantly older (median age 59 yrs) than EZH2-wt patients (median 56 yrs; p=0.044). In addition, significantly fewer EZH2-mut patients (71%) were diagnosed with de novo AML compared to EZH2-wt patients (84%; p=0.036). Accordingly, EZH2-mut patients had a higher rate of secondary acute myeloid leukemia (sAML) (21%), evolving from prior MDS or after prior chemotherapy (tAML) (8%; p=0.036). Also, bone marrow (and blood) blast counts differed between the two groups (EZH2-mut patients had significantly lower BM and PB blast counts; p=0.013). In contrast, no differences were observed for WBC counts, karyotype, ECOG performance status and ELN-2017 risk category compared to EZH2-wt patients. Based on cytogenetics according to the 2017 ELN criteria, 35% of EZH2-mut patients were categorized with favorable risk, 28% had intermediate and 37% adverse risk. No association was seen with -7/7q-. In the group of EZH2-mut AML patients, significantly higher rates of co-mutations were detected in RUNX1 (25%), ASXL1 (22%) and NRAS (25%) compared to EZH2-wt patients (with 10%; 8% and 15%, respectively). Vice versa, concomitant mutations in NPM1 were (non-significantly) more common in EZH2-wt patients (33%) vs EZH2-mut patients (21%). For other frequently mutated genes in AML there was no major difference between EZH2-mut and -wt patients, e.g. FLT3ITD (13%), FLT3TKD (10%) and CEBPA (24%), as well as genes encoding epigenetic modifiers, namely, DNMT3A (21%), IDH1/2 (11/14%), and TET2 (21%). The correlation of EZH2 mutational status with clinical outcomes showed no effect of EZH2 mutations on the rate of complete remission (CR), relapse free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) (with a median OS of 18.4 and 17.1 months for EZH2-mut and -wt patients, respectively) in the univariate analyses. Likewise, the multivariate analysis with clinical variable such as age, cytogenetics and WBC using Cox proportional hazard regression, revealed that EZH2 mutations were not an independent risk factor for OS or RFS.

Conclusion

EZH mutations are recurrent alterations in patients with AML. The association with certain clinical factors and typical mutations such as RUNX1 and ASXL1 points to the fact that these mutations are associated with secondary AML. Our data do not indicate that EZH2 mutations represent an independent prognostic factor.

Disclosures

Middeke:Janssen: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Abbvie: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Roche: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Rollig:Bayer: Research Funding; Janssen: Research Funding. Scholl:Jazz Pharma: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Abbivie: Other: Travel support; Alexion: Other: Travel support; MDS: Other: Travel support; Novartis: Other: Travel support; Deutsche Krebshilfe: Research Funding; Carreras Foundation: Research Funding; Pfizer: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Hochhaus:Pfizer: Research Funding; Incyte: Research Funding; Novartis: Research Funding; Bristol-Myers Squibb: Research Funding; Takeda: Research Funding. Brümmendorf:Janssen: Consultancy; Takeda: Consultancy; Novartis: Consultancy, Research Funding; Merck: Consultancy; Pfizer: Consultancy, Research Funding. Burchert:AOP Orphan: Honoraria, Research Funding; Bayer: Research Funding; Pfizer: Honoraria; Bristol Myers Squibb: Honoraria, Research Funding; Novartis: Research Funding. Krause:Novartis: Research Funding. Hänel:Amgen: Honoraria; Roche: Honoraria; Takeda: Honoraria; Novartis: Honoraria. Platzbecker:Celgene: Research Funding. Mayer:Eisai: Research Funding; Novartis: Research Funding; Roche: Research Funding; Johnson & Johnson: Research Funding; Affimed: Research Funding. Serve:Bayer: Research Funding. Ehninger:Cellex Gesellschaft fuer Zellgewinnung mbH: Employment, Equity Ownership; Bayer: Research Funding; GEMoaB Monoclonals GmbH: Employment, Equity Ownership. Thiede:AgenDix: Other: Ownership; Novartis: Honoraria, Research Funding.

Author notes

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Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.