ALK-negative anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALK- ALCL) is an uncommon type of T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (T-NHL) with worse prognosis compared to ALK-positive (ALK+) ALCLs. Most published studies on the genomics of T-NHL have focused on peripheral T-cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified (PTCL-NOS), and previous studies of ALCL described rearrangements in DUSP22 and TP63 and mutations in genes comprising the JAK/STAT pathway as common genetic drivers in ALK- ALCL. The degree to which these drivers affect survival or other molecular features of ALK- ALCL remains unknown. Here, we describe novel subgroups of ALK- ALCL that exhibit distinct survival. One subgroup appears molecularly similar to ALK+ALCLs and is associated with favorable survival while the second subgroup is quite distinct from ALK- ALCLs and associated with poor outcomes.

Methods and Results

Eighty-two ALK- ALCL patients were recruited to the Atlas of Blood Cancer (ABC) genomes project, a worldwide consortium established to define the molecular origins of blood cancers. Tumor biopsies from these patients, as well as 10 ALK+ ALCL samples for comparison were obtained from participating institutions. Each case was subjected to centralized pathology review by an experienced panel of hematopathologists to ensure the accuracy of the diagnosis. All cases, along with paired normal tissues, were subjected to DNA and RNA (whole exome-level) sequencing on the Illumina platform to identify mutations and expression changes for each of these cases using methods well established in our group and described previously. We first examined the genetic alterations in ALK- ALCLs. In addition to frequently described genetic alterations such as TP63 and DUSP22 rearrangements, as well as mutations in JAK1, STAT3 and TP53, we also detected mutations in ERBB4, SETD2 and KMT2D, which may serve as potential novel drivers and have not been described previously to our knowledge. We next performed comparative gene expression analysis of the ALK- and ALK+ ALCLs. Surprisingly, a proportion of ALK- ALCL cases (38%) clustered together with ALK+ ALCLs and had a signature resembling ALK+ cases, which we designated as "ALK-like ALCL" here. Both the ALK-like ALCLs and the other ALK- ALCL cases showed decreased ALK expression compared to the ALK+ ALCLs by gene expression analysis. These results point to downstream pathways that are common among ALK+ALCLs and ALK-like ALCLs, but different from the other ALK- ALCLs. Gene set enrichment analysis revealed that the ALK-like ALCLs overexpressed genes in pathways related to monocyte and fibroblast activation, whereas the remaining ALK- ALCLs overexpressed genes in the T follicular helper cells, memory T cells and adaptive immune response-related pathways (P<0.001 in all cases). Kaplan-Meier survival analysis revealed that patients with ALK-like ALCL had significantly better overall survival compared to the other cases (P=0.01, Wald test).


Our data indicate that ALK- ALCLs represent a heterogeneous group of diseases and comprise at least two distinct subgroups that can be identified based on their similarity to the ALK+ ALCLs. The ALK-like ALCLs demonstrated distinct molecular features and favorable outcomes. Our results provide a potentially new approach to patient risk-stratification and pathological classification of this disease.


Kwong:Celgene: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Bayer: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Astellas: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Amgen: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Bristol Myers Squibb: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; BeiGene: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Gilead: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Janssen: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Merck: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Novartis: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Roche: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Takeda: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding. Jaye:Stemline Therapeutics: Honoraria. Behdad:Roche/Foundation Medicine: Speakers Bureau; Thermo Fisher: Speakers Bureau; Lilly: Speakers Bureau. Hsi:AbbVie Inc, Eli Lilly: Research Funding. Dave:Data Driven Bioscience: Current equity holder in publicly-traded company.

Sign in via your Institution