Background: Acute megakaryocytic leukemia (AMKL) is a rare subtype of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with a dismal outcome in children without Down syndrome. Refractory or relapsed disease accounts for treatment failure in most cases. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is recommended as post-remission therapy, although some patients have been cured with intensive chemotherapy alone. Genetic and genomic abnormalities are common in AMKL, but their prognostic significance is not known. In this study, we analyzed AMKL using high-throughput sequencing in addition to conventional morphology, immunophenotype, cytogenetic, and molecular (MICM) approaches. Methods: From February 2015 to April 2019, 19 cases of AMKL in non-Down syndrome patients were diagnosed according to conventional methods in our center. All patients, except one, were treated using a low-dose chemotherapy (LDC) regimen (cytarabine 10 mg/m2, subcutaneously every 12 h, 20 doses; mitoxantrone 5 mg/m2 days 1, 3 and 5, and G-CSF 5µ/kg subcutaneous, daily, 10 doses) for induction remission followed by four courses of intensive chemotherapy or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) as post-remission consolidation[1]. Patients were treated with consolidation chemotherapy if parents refused HSCT. High-throughput mutational sequencing of leukemia cells obtained at diagnosis was performed. The average sequencing depth was 500-1000× and analyses were performed using mGATK, SAMTools, SIFT, PolyPhen2, LRT, and MutatioinTaster methods. Results: The average age at diagnosis of AMKL of the nine boys and 10 girls was 19.7 months (7-53 months). Eighty-four percent of the cases were younger than 2 years of age. The 19 patients with AMKL represent 10% of cases diagnosed with AML during the study period. The median initial white blood cell (WBC) count was 13×109/L(2.38-126×109/L)and the average blasts at initial bone marrow (BM) was 54.5% (13-85%). In all cases of AMKL, more than 25% of cells were positive for CD41. Sixty-three percent of patients had recurrent fusion genes, including NUP98-KDM5A, HOXA11-AS/ANGPT1, CBFA2T3-GLIS2, KMT2A-MLLT3, RBM15-MKL1. Also, we identified PICALM-MLL10, TNIP1-CSF1R, NUP98-TAF3, and CBFA2T3-GLIS1 fusion genes which had not been previously reported in AMKL. EVI-1 expression was evaluated in all cases and was overexpressed in two cases. Forty-seven percent of patients showed at least single-gene mutations, including JAK2, MPL, KRAS, NRAS, TP53, NTRK3, MYO16, PDGFB, FLT3, and others. The response rate after remission induction I (IND-I) were 84.2% with 63.1% (12/19) attaining complete remission (CR) and 21.1% (4/19) partial remission (PR). After IND-II, the CR, PR, and no response (NR) rates was 68.4%, 10.5%, and 21.1%, respectively. Four patients (21.1%) were refractory to induction chemotherapy. Seven patients (36.8%) relapsed, three during consolidation chemotherapy courses, and four after transplantation (Table 1). Currently, 75% (6/8) patients who received chemotherapy only for consolidation were alive (median follow-up time 27 months). Eleven patients underwent allo-HSCT, and 8 patients are alive, including 6 cases living without evidence of disease. Four patients relapsed after allo-HSCT, and two of them have died. One additional patient died of transplantation related mortality. The 4-year OS, RFS, and EFS in this cohort were 62.4%±13.9%, 54.1±13.0% and 40.5±11.5%, respectively (Figure 1).Conclusion: Non-Down syndrome AMKL is genetically heterogeneous with recurrent and new fusion genes. Patients treated with LDC for induction followed by intensive chemotherapy or HSCT for consolidation have outcome comparable to those treated with intensive induction regimens. New treatment strategies are needed to improve the outcome of pediatric AMKL.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.