Introduction: The BRAF mutation V600E, the most common somatic mutation in Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), has been reported in approximately 50% of LCH patients and is associated with certain high-risk clinical features. Precursors harboring this mutation can differentiate into Langerhans cells resulting in infiltrates in multiple organs under inflammatory conditions. However, BRAF status in the bone marrow of pediatric LCH patients is unclear. The present study examined somatic mutations in paired tumor and bone marrow samples, using a highly sensitive assay involving next-generation targeted sequencing and droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for pediatric LCH patients.

Methods: Between 1996 and 2019, in total of 17 Japanese pediatric patients with LCH were enrolled. The male/female ratio was 7/11. Ages of onset of LCH were median 13 months (range 5-193 months). At diagnosis of LCH, 2 patients were positive for risk organ involvement, 15 were negative. We retrospectively performed mutational analyses of 17 LCH cases using formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded LCH tumor specimens to provide templates for PCR-based targeted amplicon sequencing with customized primers to detect mutations in exons 12 and 15 in BRAF, and exons 2 and 3 in MAP2K1. Thereafter, we identified somatic mutations in the 17 paired bone marrow samples via droplet digital allele-specific PCR, targeting BRAF V600E and BRAF exon 12 in-frame deletion 496-500 (Ex12 in-del).

Results: We detected BRAF V600E in 11 of 17 tumor samples (65%) and the BRAF Ex 12 in-del in 3 of 17 tumors (18%). We identified BRAF V600E in bone marrow samples in 10 of the 11 cases (90%) with the mutation in the tumor at low variant allele frequency (median 0.25%, range 0.14-7.0%). BRAF Ex 12 in-del was not detected in the bone marrow. Cases with detectable bone marrow involvement included eight patients with multi-system disease affecting multiple organs, one patient with multi-focal bone disease, and one patient with single-system disease. Clinical phenotypes including relapse did not correlate with BRAF V600E upon detection in the bone marrow.

Conclusion: We established the sensitive assay based on PCR-based targeted NGS for detecting somatic mutations in LCH even accessible for formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded clinical specimens. Bone marrow involvement is frequently detectable at the molecular level in pediatric LCH with the BRAF V600E mutation. A prospective study is warranted to evaluate the clinical impact of mutational burden in bone marrow.


Kudo:Unum Therapeutics: Patents & Royalties. Imai:Juno Therapeutics: Patents & Royalties.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.