Strong evidence implicates fusion of control elements and 5′ sequences of the bcr gene of chromosome 22 with 3′ sequences of the c-abl gene of chromosome 9 in the pathogenesis of Ph-positive and certain cases of Ph- negative chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Since this fusion gene gives rise to a chimeric tyrosine protein kinase with transforming potential, and since the bcr exon contribution to this chimeric protein is variable, the question has arisen as to whether bcr breakpoint location and bcr exon contribution could influence the clinical course of CML. Prior studies have yielded conflicting results on this point. Here we have looked, in a manner approximating a prospective analysis, at the relation of bcr breakpoint localization to the duration of chronic phase, total survival, and blast crisis phenotype in 81 patients presenting in the chronic phase of CML. We have found no significant differences in chronic phase duration or total survival among patients with breakpoints in the three major subregions of a breakpoint cluster region within the bcr gene. These findings indicate that chronic phase duration and total survival cannot be predicted from bcr breakpoint for CML patients presenting in chronic phase and suggest that unknown oncogenic events determining the onset of blast crisis are the prime determinants of prognosis. Combined analysis of blast crisis cell lineage in our patients and patients presented in a previous study has revealed an overall ratio of myeloid:lymphoid (M:L) crisis of 3.4:1, but a striking predominance of myeloid crisis in patients with breakpoints in subregion 2 (M:L of 9:1), and a lower than expected M:L ratio (1.6:1) among patients with breakpoints in subregion 3 (P for subregion 2 versus 3 = .012; subregions 0,1,2 versus 3 = .012; subregions 0,1,3 versus 2 = .032). The molecular basis for this divergence from the anticipated M:L ratio in patients with breakpoints in bcr subregions 2 and 3 is unknown.

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