The CLL international prognostic index (CLL-IPI) is a validated staging system for newly diagnosed CLL patients that combines age, clinical stage, serum Beta-2 microglobulin, TP53, and IGHV mutation status into a single score and stratifies CLL patients into four prognostic risk groups with a c-statistic=0.72. Next-generation sequencing identified ~60 putative driver genes recurrently mutated in CLL, and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) identified 41 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with CLL risk. We previously showed that a polygenic risk score (PRS) of the weighted average of the number of risk alleles among these 41 SNPs is associated with risk of both CLL and MBL. We and others have also shown that the tumor mutational load (TML), i.e., the total number of somatically mutated driver genes, is associated with time to first treatment (TTT). Herein, we examine whether TML and PRS add prognostic value beyond CLL-IPI for disease progression in a cohort of CLL and high-count MBLs.


We used the Mayo Clinic CLL resource to identify newly diagnosed (<2 years) previously untreated CLL and high-count MBL patients based on the 2008 International Workshop CLL (IWCLL) criteria . We extracted DNA from CD5+/CD19+ clonal B-cells and sequenced the coding regions of 59 recurrently mutated CLL driver genes using a custom SureSelect panel and Illumina HiSeq 4000. The median coverage depth per sample was 2737X. Somatic mutations were called using MuTect2 in tumor-only mode. Germline variants were eliminated based on minor allele frequencies >0.01%, and by those identified in 1000 Genomes Project, ExAC and/or ESP6500 databases, unless present in known mutation hotspots or COSMIC. After filtering high/moderate impact mutations, we calculated the TML. Peripheral blood DNA was genotyped on Illumina Omni Express array; after extensive quality control metrics, we calculated the germline PRS as the weighted average of the number of risk alleles among the CLL susceptibility SNPs. Cox regression was used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) to test for associations with TTT. We analyzed the low/intermediate risk groups and the high/very high risk groups in stratified analyses and tested for interactions between CLL-IPI and TML or PRS. Survival curves are displayed using the Kaplan-Meier method using P-values from the log-rank test; the PRS is displayed by tertile categories.


Of 166 patients (120 CLL, 46 MBL), 67% were male and the median age at diagnosis was 62 years (range: 28-85). The median follow-up was 5.3 years, and 73 were treated for progressive disease as defined by the 2018 IWCLL criteria. Low risk CLL-IPI comprised 51%, intermediate risk 27%, high risk 18%, and very-high risk 4%. The most commonly somatically mutated genes were TP53 (8%), CHD2 (8%), BIRC3 (8%), SF3B1 (7%), and NOTCH1 (7%). We found that 42%, 32%, and 26% of patients had 0, 1, or 2+ genes with somatic mutations, respectively. The median PRS was 8.3 (range: 6.1-11.3) which is consistent with our prior PRS study on CLL/MBL and higher than 7.53 found in 7983 controls from our prior work. When we modeled TML, PRS, sex, CLL/MBL status and CLL-IPI together with the joint effects of CLL-IPI with TML and PRS, both interactions were significant in the model (P=0.008 for TML*CLL-IPI and P=0.014 for PRS*CLL-IPI), with c-statistic=0.81 (CI:0.77-0.85). When we stratified by CLL-IPI, TML was associated with shorter TTT in the low/intermediate risk (N=129, continuous HR=2.36 per TML category, CI: 1.61-3.47, P=1.3x10-5, Figure 1.A), but there was no evidence of an association in the high/very-high risk (N=37, continuous HR=1.12 per TML category, CI: 0.70-1. 78, P=0.64, Figure 1.B), after adjusting for PRS, sex, and CLL/MBL status. However, the PRS was associated with a shorter TTT in the high/very-high risk (continuous HR=1.77 per SD, CI: 1.00-3.12, P=0.048, Figure 1.D), with no evidence of an association in the low/intermediate risk (continuous HR=0.95 per SD, CI: 0.95-1.29, P=0.74, Figure 1.C), after adjusting for TML, sex, and CLL/MBL status.


In our study, TML was prognostic among the low/intermediate CLL-IPI risk groups while the PRS was prognostic among the high/very-high CLL-IPI risk groups. Sequencing CLL driver genes and genotyping relevant germline SNPs at time of diagnosis may provide incremental value over the CLL-IPI in predicting TTT among patients with CLL/MBL.


Parikh:MorphoSys: Research Funding; Genentech: Honoraria; AbbVie: Honoraria, Research Funding; AstraZeneca: Honoraria, Research Funding; Pharmacyclics: Honoraria, Research Funding; Janssen: Research Funding; Ascentage Pharma: Research Funding; Acerta Pharma: Research Funding. Ding:Merck: Research Funding; DTRM Biopharma: Research Funding. Cerhan:Celgene: Research Funding; Janssen: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; NanoString: Research Funding. Kay:MorphoSys: Other: Data Safety Monitoring Board; Infinity Pharmaceuticals: Other: DSMB; Celgene: Other: Data Safety Monitoring Board; Agios: Other: DSMB.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.