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Leukemia. 2000 May;14(5):796-804.

Screening for MLL tandem duplication in 387 unselected patients with AML identify a prognostically unfavorable subset of AML.

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  • 1Department of Hematology and Oncology, University of Göttingen, Germany.


Partial tandem duplications of the MLL gene have been associated with trisomy 11 in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and recently, have also been reported for karyotypically normal AML. In order to test the incidence and prognostic importance of this molecular marker, we have analyzed eight cases of AML with trisomy 11 and 387 unselected consecutive cases with AML for partial duplications of the MLL gene. Patients with normal karyotypes and those with various chromosome aberrations were included. De novo as well as secondary leukemias including all FAB subtypes were analyzed. Performing a one-step RT-PCR with 35 cycles using an exon 9 forward primer and an exon 3 reverse primer partial tandem duplications of the MLL gene were demonstrated in 3/8 (37.5%) patients with trisomy 11. In addition, 13/387 (3.4%) of unselected cases revealed a tandem duplication. Ten of these 13 cases were cytogenetically normal, the other three cases had < or =2 additional chromosomal alterations. Sequencing of the RT-PCR products of all 16 positive cases revealed fusions of MLL exon 9/exon 3 (e9/e3) (six cases), e10/e3 (three cases), e11/e3 (four cases) or combinations of differentially spliced e10/e3 and e11/e3 (three cases) transcripts. The duplications were confirmed by genomic long range PCR and Southern blot hybridization. Twelve cases with the MLL duplication were de novo myeloid leukemia, one was a secondary AML after MDS, three were therapy-related AML (t-AML). Of the 16 MLL-duplication positive cases, seven were classified as FAB M2, two as M1, five as M4, one as M0, one as M5b. The mean age was 62.3 years for patients with MLL duplication vs 50.3 years for the control group. Of 15 adult patients, 12 received treatment. Of these, three were nonresponders, five had early relapse (< or =6 months), four relapsed between 7 and 12 months. Median survival and relapse-free interval of the MLL duplication positive group was significantly worse than those of an age-matched karyotypically normal control group. In conclusion, MLL tandem duplications (1) are less common than previously reported; (2) are preferentially observed in AML with normal karyotypes, but can also be found in the presence of chromosome alterations; (3) are not strongly associated with an FAB subtype; (4) were not observed with the prognostically favorable t(8;21), inv(16), and t(15;17), other recurrent translocations, or in complex karyotypes; and (5) identifies a subgroup of patients with an unfavorable prognosis.

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