Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) is an aggressive myeloid neoplasm of older individuals characterized by persistent monocytosis. Somatic mutations in CMML are heterogeneous and only partially explain the variability in clinical outcomes. Recent data suggest that cardiovascular morbidity is increased in CMML and contributes to reduced survival. Clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP), the presence of mutated blood cells in hematologically normal individuals, is a precursor of age-related myeloid neoplasms and associated with increased cardiovascular risk. To isolate CMML-specific alterations from those related to aging, we performed RNA sequencing and DNA methylation profiling on purified monocytes from CMML patients and from age-matched (old) and young healthy controls. We found that the transcriptional signature of CMML monocytes is highly proinflammatory, with upregulation of multiple inflammatory pathways, including tumor necrosis factor and interleukin (IL)-6 and -17 signaling, whereas age per se does not significantly contribute to this pattern. We observed no consistent correlations between aberrant gene expression and CpG island methylation, suggesting that proinflammatory signaling in CMML monocytes is governed by multiple and complex regulatory mechanisms. We propose that proinflammatory monocytes contribute to cardiovascular morbidity in CMML patients and promote progression by selection of mutated cell clones. Our data raise questions of whether asymptomatic patients with CMML benefit from monocyte-depleting or anti-inflammatory therapies.
© 2019 by The American Society of Hematology.