The genetic mechanisms underlying disease progression, relapse and therapy resistance in mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) remain largely unknown. Whole-exome sequencing was performed in 27 MCL samples from 13 patients, representing the largest analyzed series of consecutive biopsies obtained at diagnosis and/or relapse for this type of lymphoma. Eighteen genes were found to be recurrently mutated in these samples, including known (ATM, MEF2B and MLL2) and novel mutation targets (S1PR1 and CARD11). CARD11, a scaffold protein required for B-cell receptor (BCR)-induced NF-κB activation, was subsequently screened in an additional 173 MCL samples and mutations were observed in 5.5% of cases. Based on in vitro cell line-based experiments, overexpression of CARD11 mutants were demonstrated to confer resistance to the BCR-inhibitor ibrutinib and NF-κB-inhibitor lenalidomide. Genetic alterations acquired in the relapse samples were found to be largely non-recurrent, in line with the branched evolutionary pattern of clonal evolution observed in most cases. In summary, this study highlights the genetic heterogeneity in MCL, in particular at relapse, and provides for the first time genetic evidence of BCR/NF-κB activation in a subset of MCL.
Keywords: CARD11; NF-κB inhibitor; mantle cell lymphoma; relapse; whole-exome sequencing.