Background: Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the ATM gene (mutated in ataxia telangiectasia [AT] patients) and ATM protein deficiency occur in 14% and 34%, respectively, of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). ATM protein deficiency also is associated with aggressive disease and worse patient survival. Considering the aberrations in the ATM gene in CLL and the high rate of incidence of lymphoid neoplasias in AT patients, the authors investigated its incidence rate and significance in patients with adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Methods: Samples from 36 adults with ALL were analyzed for LOH and homozygous deletion (HD) using a panel of three microsatellite markers located at the ATM gene (D11S2179), the MLL gene (D11S1356), and the BCL1 gene (D11S987) loci. These markers are located within the 11q13-q23 locus.
Results: Of the 36 informative cases, 10 (28%) showed deletions (7 LOH and 3 HDs) at the D11S2179 marker. In two patients, the deletions were extended to the MLL gene locus. These deletions were submicroscopic because only 3% (1 of 36) of patients showed abnormalities involving 11q23 using cytogenetic studies. The authors also estimated the levels of ATM protein in 15 ALL patients and 12 healthy volunteers by radioimmunoassay. The ATM protein levels in cases with LOH at the ATM gene were between 15-50% of those from normal bone marrow. In contrast to CLL patients, patients with LOH or HD at the ATM gene locus showed better survival compared with patients without ATM gene deletions (P = 0.003).
Conclusions: LOH of the ATM gene and protein deficiency are common in adult ALL, are not demonstrated at the cytogenetic level, and are associated with a favorable prognosis. The authors speculate that ATM deficiency may increase the sensitivity of leukemic blasts to the chemotherapy used during induction and after disease remission in patients with adult ALL. The relatively high frequency of deletion of the D11S2179 marker compared with the D11S1356 marker suggests that ATM is the target gene of the deletion at the 11q23 locus, and that such deletions may play a role in the pathogenesis of ALL.
Copyright 2000 American Cancer Society.