Purpose: ABL kinase domain mutations have been implicated in the resistance to the BCR-ABL inhibitor imatinib mesylate of Philadelphia-positive (Ph+) leukemia patients.
Experimental design: Using denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography and sequencing, we screened for ABL kinase domain mutations in 370 Ph+ patients with evidence of hematologic or cytogenetic resistance to imatinib.
Results: Mutations were found in 127 of 297 (43%) evaluable patients. Mutations were found in 27% of chronic-phase patients (14% treated with imatinib frontline; 31% treated with imatinib post-IFN failure), 52% of accelerated-phase patients, 75% of myeloid blast crisis patients, and 83% of lymphoid blast crisis/Ph+ acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients. Mutations were associated in 30% of patients with primary resistance (44% hematologic and 28% cytogenetic) and in 57% of patients with acquired resistance (23% patients who lost cytogenetic response; 55% patients who lost hematologic response; and 87% patients who progressed to accelerated phase/blast crisis). P-loop and T315I mutations were particularly frequent in advanced-phase chronic myeloid leukemia and Ph+ ALL patients, and often accompanied progression from chronic phase to accelerated phase/blast crisis.
Conclusions: We conclude that (a) amino acid substitutions at seven residues (M244V, G250E, Y253F/H, E255K/V, T315I, M351T, and F359V) account for 85% of all resistance-associated mutations; (b) the search for mutations is important both in case of imatinib failure and in case of loss of response at the hematologic or cytogenetic level; (c) advanced-phase chronic myeloid leukemia and Ph+ ALL patients have a higher likelihood of developing imatinib-resistant mutations; and (d) the presence of either P-loop or T315I mutations in imatinib-treated patients should warn the clinician to reconsider the therapeutic strategy.