Genetic and evolutionary patterns of treatment resistance in relapsed B-cell lymphoma

Blood Adv. 2020 Jul 14;4(13):2886-2898. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2020001696.


Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) patients are typically treated with immunochemotherapy containing rituximab (rituximab, cyclophosphamide, hydroxydaunorubicin-vincristine (Oncovin), and prednisone [R-CHOP]); however, prognosis is extremely poor if R-CHOP fails. To identify genetic mechanisms contributing to primary or acquired R-CHOP resistance, we performed target-panel sequencing of 135 relapsed/refractory DLBCLs (rrDLBCLs), primarily comprising circulating tumor DNA from patients on clinical trials. Comparison with a metacohort of 1670 diagnostic DLBCLs identified 6 genes significantly enriched for mutations upon relapse. TP53 and KMT2D were mutated in the majority of rrDLBCLs, and these mutations remained clonally persistent throughout treatment in paired diagnostic-relapse samples, suggesting a role in primary treatment resistance. Nonsense and missense mutations affecting MS4A1, which encodes CD20, are exceedingly rare in diagnostic samples but show recurrent patterns of clonal expansion following rituximab-based therapy. MS4A1 missense mutations within the transmembrane domains lead to loss of CD20 in vitro, and patient tumors harboring these mutations lacked CD20 protein expression. In a time series from a patient treated with multiple rounds of therapy, tumor heterogeneity and minor MS4A1-harboring subclones contributed to rapid disease recurrence, with MS4A1 mutations as founding events for these subclones. TP53 and KMT2D mutation status, in combination with other prognostic factors, may be used to identify high-risk patients prior to R-CHOP for posttreatment monitoring. Using liquid biopsies, we show the potential to identify tumors with loss of CD20 surface expression stemming from MS4A1 mutations. Implementation of noninvasive assays to detect such features of acquired treatment resistance may allow timely transition to more effective treatment regimens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse* / drug therapy
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse* / genetics
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / genetics
  • Rituximab / therapeutic use


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Rituximab