MDS and AML are mostly found in elderly patients. However, even in this population there is increasing evidence of predisposing genetic conditions, which have been underdiagnosed so far. Identifying inherited predisposition to myeloid disorders can be crucial especially in the context of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).

Germline mutations in the DEAD/H-box helicase gene DDX41 have been identified in families with multiple cases of MDS or AML but also in sporadic cases. We aimed to analyze the prevalence and clinical features of DDX41-related myeloid malignancies within an unselected cohort of pts diagnosed with MDS or AML (MDS/AML).


Between March 2017 and June 2018, mutation screening was performed in 842 consecutive pts with a diagnosis of MDS/AML in a single center at Hôpital Saint-Louis, Paris. DNA was obtained from bone marrow or peripheral blood. Targeted sequencing of all exons of a panel of 80 genes recurrently mutated in myeloid malignancies was performed using custom capture-based library preparation (Agilent SureSelect) and Illumina sequencing. Sanger sequencing was performed on selected pts' cultured skin fibroblasts to check for the putative germline origin of the variants.


We identified a DDX41 gene variant in 36 unrelated pts (4% of 842). We focused on the 32 pts having at least one DDX41 variant with a variant allele frequency (VAF) ranging from 40 to 60% highly suggestive of a germline origin, which was subsequently confirmed in all available cases (N=7). Sixteen variants were classified as pathogenic or likely pathogenic based on major predicted changes in protein sequence while the 16 others were missense variants of unknown significance (VUS), which scored deleterious in most algorithms (Figure 1A). An additional, likely somatic DDX41 mutation (VAF < 40%) was present in 18 of 32 pts (56%). Overall, 22 pts could be unambiguously considered as having a DDX41-related malignancy based on the presence of a major disturbing mutation and/or a second DDX41 mutation, while 10 pts had a single VUS. Twenty-six variants were newly described, including a recurrent one, G173R found in 5 pts, all having a second DDX41 mutation.

Median age of the 32 patients was 70 years (35-88). Only 4 pts (12%) had a familial history of hematologic disorders. According to revised WHO classification, 4 (12.5%) had MDS-MLD, 8 MDS-EB (25%), 12 AML (37.5%), 6 MDS/MPN (18.7%), one 5q syndrome and one aplastic anemia. Strikingly, 15/32 (47%) pts had a history of cytopenia several years before blastic evolution and the 5 pts with G173R presented with hypoplastic MDS or initially isolated cytopenias, suggesting a specific functional effect of this mutation. Karyotype was normal in 16 pts (44%), complex in one, 12 pts had an isolated abnormality, and three had cytogenetic failure. Additional driver mutations were identified in most (27/32,84%) pts (Figure 1B), but we noticed that they were less frequent and at lower VAF in pts having both germline and somatic DDX41 mutations as compared to pts with a single variant (median 1.5 vs 3 mutations, median VAF 7% vs 29.5%, p<0.001). This suggests distinct oncogenic pathways, with DDX41 double-hit oncogenesis being relatively independent of other oncogenic drivers.

Seven low-risk MDS pts were untreated, 7 received ESA and 5 (71%) responded. Ten high-risk MDS/AML pts received a hypomethylating agent and 8 (80%) achieved hematological response. Nine AML pts received intensive chemotherapy, with a complete response rate of 100% (7/7, 2 ongoing) and 5 of them had HSCT, all of them being alive with tolerable toxicity. Five pts died, median OS was 87 months, and 2-y OS was 89%. No difference on OS was observed between single and double-DDX41 mutated pts.


DDX41 germline variant carriers represent a significant part of MDS/AML pts, the vast majority presenting without familial history. The predicted change in protein and/or the presence of a second somatic mutation strongly support the causality of the germline variant in most pts. By contrast with previous reports, pts frequently presented a phase of cytopenia before overt malignancy. Finally, outcome regarding response to treatment and OS in this DDX41-mutated cohort appeared relatively favorable.


Peffault De Latour:Pfizer Inc.: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Amgen Inc.: Research Funding; Novartis: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding. Fenaux:Otsuka: Honoraria, Research Funding; Jazz: Honoraria, Research Funding; Janssen: Honoraria, Research Funding; Celgene: Honoraria, Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.