Impact of Genetics on Mature Lymphoid Leukemias and Lymphomas

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2020 Nov 2;10(11):a035444. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a035444.


Recurrent genetic aberrations have long been recognized in mature lymphoid leukemias and lymphomas. As conventional karyotypic and molecular cloning techniques evolved in the 1970s and 1980s, multiple cytogenetic aberrations were identified in lymphomas, often balanced translocations that juxtaposed oncogenes to the immunoglobulin (IG) or T-cell receptor (TR) loci, leading to dysregulation. However, genetic characterization and classification of lymphoma by conventional cytogenetic methods is limited by the infrequent occurrence of recurrent karyotypic abnormalities in many lymphoma subtypes and by the frequent difficulty in growing clinical lymphoma specimens in culture to obtain informative karyotypes. As higher-resolution genomic techniques developed, such as array comparative genomic hybridization and fluorescence in situ hybridization, many recurrent copy number changes were identified in lymphomas, and copy number assessment of interphase cells became part of routine clinical practice for a subset of diseases. Platforms to globally examine mRNA expression led to major insights into the biology of several lymphomas, although these techniques have not gained widespread application in routine clinical settings. With the advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS) techniques in the early 2000s, numerous insights into the genetic landscape of lymphomas were obtained. In contrast to the myeloid malignancies, most common lymphomas exhibit an at least somewhat mutationally complex genome, with few single driver mutations in the majority of patients. However, many recurrently mutated pathways have been identified across lymphoma subtypes, informing targeted therapeutic approaches that are beginning to make meaningful changes in the treatment of lymphoma. In addition to the ability to identify possible therapeutic targets, NGS techniques are highly amenable to the tracking of residual lymphoma following therapy, because of the presence of unique genetic "fingerprints" in lymphoma cells due to V(D)-J recombination at the antigen receptor loci. This review will provide an overview of the impact of novel genetic technologies on lymphoma classification, biology, and therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / classification
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / genetics*
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / therapy
  • Lymphoma / classification
  • Lymphoma / genetics*
  • Lymphoma / therapy
  • Mutation