Comprehensive Transcriptome Profiling of Cryptic CBFA2T3-GLIS2 Fusion-Positive AML Defines Novel Therapeutic Options: A COG and TARGET Pediatric AML Study

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DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-19-1800; PMCID: PMC7002196


Purpose: A cryptic inv(16)(p13.3q24.3) encoding the CBFA2T3-GLIS2 fusion is associated with poor outcome in infants with acute megakaryocytic leukemia. We aimed to broaden our understanding of the pathogenesis of this fusion through transcriptome profiling.

Experimental design: Available RNA from children and young adults with de novo acute myeloid leukemia (AML; N = 1,049) underwent transcriptome sequencing (mRNA and miRNA). Transcriptome profiles for those with the CBFA2T3-GLIS2 fusion (N = 24) and without (N = 1,025) were contrasted to define fusion-specific miRNAs, genes, and pathways. Clinical annotations defined distinct fusion-associated disease characteristics and outcomes.

Results: The CBFA2T3-GLIS2 fusion was restricted to infants (P < 0.001), and the presence of this fusion was highly associated with adverse outcome (P < 0.001) across all morphologic classifications. Further, there was a striking paucity of recurrent cooperating mutations, and transduction of cord blood stem cells with this fusion was sufficient for malignant transformation. CBFA2T3-GLIS2 positive cases displayed marked upregulation of genes with cell membrane/extracellular matrix localization potential, including NCAM1 and GABRE. Additionally, miRNA profiling revealed significant overexpression of mature miR-224 and miR-452, which are intronic miRNAs transcribed from the GABRE locus. Gene-set enrichment identified dysregulated Hippo, TGFβ, and hedgehog signaling, as well as NCAM1 (CD56) interaction pathways. Therapeutic targeting of fusion-positive leukemic cells with CD56-directed antibody-drug conjugate caused significant cytotoxicity in leukemic blasts.

Conclusions: The CBFA2T3-GLIS2 fusion defines a highly refractory entity limited to infants that appears to be sufficient for malignant transformation. Transcriptome profiling elucidated several highly targetable genes and pathways, including the identification of CD56, providing a highly plausible target for therapeutic intervention.

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Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research





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