BCR-ABL kinase domain (KD) mutation is the main mechanism associated with resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients. This study targeted a large cohort of CML (n=171) comprising 80 naïve CML cases without prior TKI exposure as well as 91 cases undergoing 1st generation (imatinib) and/or 2nd generation (nilotinib/dasatinib) TKI therapy. KD mutations were analyzed by denaturing high performance liquid chromatography followed by direct sequencing. Twenty-one types of mutations were found in 37 patients including 13 known mutations and 8 previously unidentified mutations. Thirty cases had a single mutation while 7 cases had multiple mutations. Twenty-three percent of patients receiving first-line imatinib, 69% of imatinib-resistant patients receiving 2nd generation TKI, and 75% of advanced phase patients treated with front-line 2nd generation TKI had KD mutations. Interestingly, 9% of TKI-naïve CML cases were also discovered to carry the KD mutations including 5 novel variants. Patients who received hydroxyurea had a 2-fold increase in KD mutations as compared to newly diagnosed patients but they still had a lower mutation frequency than TKI-exposed cases. Mutations in the naïve cases were mainly localized in the C-helix domain and SH3 contact site whereas in exposed cases predominantly in the drug contact site, P-loop, and catalytic domain. T315I resistant mutation was identified only in TKI-exposed cases. In conclusion, several known and novel BCR-ABL KD mutations were discovered in the TKI-naïve and -exposed Southeast Asian CML patients, supporting the concept that naturally occurring KD mutations were present in leukemic cells prior to drug exposure. T315I resistant mutation was completely undetectable in this naïve Southeast Asian cohort; its incidence, however, increases with drug exposure.
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