Genetic Alterations and Therapeutic Targeting of Philadelphia-Like Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Genes (Basel). 2021 May 1;12(5):687. doi: 10.3390/genes12050687.


Philadelphia-like (Ph-like) acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a subgroup of B-cell precursor ALL which by gene expression analysis clusters with Philadelphia-positive ALL although lacking the pathognomonic BCR-ABL1 oncoprotein. Its prevalence increases with age and similar to BCR-ABL1-positive ALL, Ph-like ALL is characterized by IKZF1 or other B-lymphoid transcription factor gene deletions and by poor outcome to conventional therapeutic approaches. Genetic alterations are highly heterogenous across patients and include gene fusions, sequence mutations, DNA copy number changes and cryptic rearrangements. These lesions drive constitutively active cytokine receptor and kinase signaling pathways which deregulate ABL1 or JAK signaling and more rarely other kinase-driven pathways. The presence of activated kinase alterations and cytokine receptors has led to the incorporation of targeted therapy to the chemotherapy backbone which has improved treatment outcome for this high-risk subtype. More recently, retrospective studies have shown the efficacy of immunotherapies including both antibody drug-conjugates and chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy and as they are not dependent on a specific genetic alteration, it is likely their use will increase in prospective clinical trials. This review summarizes the genomic landscape, clinical features, diagnostic assays, and novel therapeutic approaches for patients with Ph-like ALL.

Keywords: BCR-ABL1–like ALL; Ph-like ALL; acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL); cryptic rearrangements; immunotherapy; kinase signaling; targeted therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Heterogeneity*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Janus Kinases / genetics
  • Janus Kinases / metabolism
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / drug therapy
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / therapy
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-abl / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-abl / metabolism


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • ABL1 protein, human
  • Janus Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-abl