Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS)-based BCR-ABL1 kinase domain (KD) mutation screening has been shown to enable greater accuracy and sensitivity and straightforward identification of compound mutants (CM) as compared to Sanger sequencing (seq). However, the prevalence of CMs has never been assessed in prospective studies, and although in vitro data suggest that many of them may be challenging for all tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) including ponatinib, attempts to correlate such data with in vivo responses have never been made. To address these issues, we have reviewed the results of routine NGS-based BCR-ABL1 KD mutation screening performed over the past 3 years.

Between 2015 and 2018, we have prospectively used NGS to analyze a consecutive series of 751 Ph+ leukemia patients (pts) on TKI therapy who were eligible for BCR-ABL1 KD mutation screening according to ELN/NCCN/ESMO recommendations. The study population included 664 chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) pts with failure or warning response (chronic phase [CP], n=593; accelerated or blastic phase [AP/BP], n=71) and 87 Ph+ acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) pts with relapsed/refractory disease. NGS of ≈400bp amplicons generated by nested RT-PCR was performed on a Roche GS Junior (until April 2017) or on an Illumina MiSeq (from May 2017 on) using custom protocols whose accuracy, sensitivity and reproducibility was checked by national and international (EUTOS) control rounds. Read alignment and variant calling was done using the AmpSuite software (SmartSeq srl), with a lower detection limit set to 3%. Cis or trans configuration of mutation pairs, indicating CMs or polyclonality, respectively, was determined correcting for the likelihood of PCR recombination. The 35INS insertion/truncation mutant was excluded from the analysis.

NGS identified mutations in the BCR-ABL1 KD in a total of 313/664 (47%) CML pts (255/593 [43%] CP-CML and 58/71 [82%] AP/BP-CML) and 69/87 (79%) Ph+ ALL pts. Ninety-one percent of the mutations could be recognized as conferring resistance to at least one TKI on the basis of publicly available IC50 data or published reports. In 42/593 (7%) CP-CML, 6/71 (8.5%) AP/BP-CML and 12/87 (14%) Ph+ ALL pts, low burden mutations (i.e., mutations carried by a proportion of transcripts <15% - hence invisible to Sanger seq) were the only detectable mutation(s). In 21/593 (3.5%) CP-CML, 26/71 (37%) AP/BP-CML and 40/87 (46%) Ph+ ALL pts low burden mutations co-existed together with at least one dominant mutation (i.e. a mutation carried by a proportion of transcripts >15% - hence detectable by Sanger seq). Fifty-five (9.2%) CP-CML, 51 (72%) AP/BP-CML and 56 (49%) Ph+ ALL pts had ≥2 mutations (CP-CML: 1-5 mutations; AP/BP-CML: 1-6 mutations; Ph+ ALL: 1-13 mutations). Identification of CMs in pts with ≥2 mutations was fully possible (i.e., all the candidate pairs mapped within a distance of 400bp) in 71% of cases and partially possible (i.e., some, but not all the candidate pairs mapped within a distance of 400bp) in another 12% of cases. A total of 86 CMs (85 double and 1 triple) in 73 pts (21 [3.5%] CP-CML, 23 [32%] AP/BP-CML and 29 [37%] Ph+ ALL pts) could be catalogued (Figure 1A). All but two (T315I+D276G, M244V+E255K) were detected in pts who had received ≥2 TKIs and all included at least a 2nd-generation TKI-resistant mutation. The most frequent CMs were T315I+E255K, T315I+E255V, T315I+F359V, F317L+Y253H (Figure 1A). The triple CM, detected in a ponatinib-resistant pt, was F317I+Y253F+Q252H. Correlation of IC50 data with in vivo responses (the TKIs pts were clinically resistant to) confirmed only partially in vitro predictions (Figure 1B). In particular, although ponatinib was shown in vitro to be poorly effective against several CMs, only the T315I+E255V was consistently found to be associated with ponatinib failure.

In conclusion, our results in a large unselected series of TKI-resistant pts analyzed by NGS show that:

  • CMs are relatively infrequent in CP-CML, but may be a relevant issue in AP/BP-CML and Ph+ ALL;

  • among pts with multiple mutations, those who have failed 1 line of therapy have most often polyclonality, whereas those who have failed ≥2 lines of therapy may have CMs or polyclonality;

  • in vitro predictions of sensitivity and insensitivity based on IC50 data should be regarded with caution. In particular, the only compound mutant that we consistently found to be associated with ponatinib failure was the T315I+E255V.

Supported by EUTOS 2016.

Disclosures

Soverini:Novartis: Consultancy; Incyte Biosciences: Consultancy; Bristol Myers Squibb: Consultancy. Pagano:Pfizer: Speakers Bureau; Gilead: Speakers Bureau; Basilea: Speakers Bureau; Merck: Speakers Bureau; Janssen: Speakers Bureau. Gugliotta:Pfizer: Honoraria; Bristol-Myers Squibb: Honoraria; Incyte: Honoraria; Novartis: Honoraria. Castagnetti:Incyte: Consultancy, Honoraria; Pfizer: Consultancy, Honoraria; Bristol Meyers Squibb: Consultancy, Honoraria; Novartis: Consultancy, Honoraria. Angelucci:Roche Italy: Other: Local (national) advisory board; Novartis: Honoraria, Other: Chair Steering Comiittee TELESTO Protocol; Celgene: Honoraria, Other: Chair DMC; Jazz Pharmaceuticals Italy: Other: Local ( national) advisory board; Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (MA) and CRISPR CAS9 Therapeutics AG (CH): Other: Chair DMC. Martinelli:Abbvie: Consultancy; Ariad/Incyte: Consultancy; Janssen: Consultancy; Novartis: Speakers Bureau; Jazz Pharmaceuticals: Consultancy; Roche: Consultancy; Pfizer: Consultancy, Speakers Bureau; Celgene: Consultancy, Speakers Bureau; Amgen: Consultancy. Cavo:Janssen: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding, Speakers Bureau; Takeda: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Bristol-Myers Squibb: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Adaptive Biotechnologies: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Amgen: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; AbbVie: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Celgene: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding, Speakers Bureau; GlaxoSmithKline: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees.

Author notes

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Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.