The life expectancy of patients with chronic phase chronic myeloid leukemia on tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy now approaches that of the general population. Approximately 60% of patients treated with second generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors achieve a deep molecular response, the prerequisite for a trial of treatment-free remission. Those patients unlikely to achieve deep molecular response may benefit from more intensive therapy up front. To identify biomarkers predicting deep molecular response we performed transcriptional profiling on CD34+ progenitor cells from newly diagnosed chronic phase chronic myeloid leukemia patients treated with nilotinib on a prospective clinical trial. Using unsupervised and targeted analytical strategies, we show that gene expression profiles are similar in patients with and without subsequent deep molecular response. This result is in contrast to the distinct expression signature of CD34+ chronic phase chronic myeloid leukemia patients failing to achieve a cytogenetic response on imatinib and suggests that deep molecular response to second-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors is governed by the biology of more primitive chronic myeloid leukemia cells or extrinsic factors.
Keywords: BCR-ABL1; chronic myeloid leukemia; deep molecular response; treatment-free remission.