The clinical aspects of disease progression in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) are well established, but the nature of the molecular events responsible is not known. We have previously reported a consistent pattern of novel sites of methylation in the 5′ region of the calcitonin (CT) gene and other chromosome 11p loci in acute myelogenous and and lymphoid leukemias. In the present study, CT gene methylation patterns were investigated in peripheral blood from 51 patients with CML. Abnormal patterns were found in only 2 of 31 patients in chronic phase, but in 5 of 8 patients in accelerated phase, and in 11 of 12 patients in blast crisis (P less than .005). For one patient studied in blast crisis, abnormal CT gene methylation was found in the peripheral blast cells but not in the granulocytes. In two of three patients studied with CML and having normal peripheral cell patterns, abnormal patterns were found in marrow blast cells. In one patient, only partial normalization of the CT gene methylation pattern was seen after chemotherapy induction of a second chronic phase and the patient relapsed 5 months later. Our findings indicate that abnormal methylation of the 5′ region of the CT gene is regularly a marker of disease progression in CML which may prove clinically useful. This abnormal methylation site is part of an imbalance in DNA methylation that may play a role in the progressive genetic instability which characterizes the advancing stages of CML.

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