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Haematologica. 2018 Feb;103(2):304-312. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2017.175729. Epub 2017 Dec 7.

Somatic STAT3 mutations in Felty syndrome: an implication for a common pathogenesis with large granular lymphocyte leukemia.

Author information

1
Hematology Research Unit Helsinki, University of Helsinki and Department of Hematology, Helsinki University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center, Finland.
2
Department of Clinical Chemistry and Hematology, University of Helsinki, Finland.
3
University of Virginia Cancer Center; University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA.
4
Päijät-Häme Central Hospital, Lahti, Finland.
5
Faculty of Medicine, Tampere University, Finland.
6
Department of Pathology, University of Helsinki and HUSLAB, Helsinki University Hospital, Finland.
7
Laboratory of Genetics, HUSLAB, Helsinki University Hospital, Finland.
8
Rheumatology/Medicine, Jyväskylä Central Hospital, Finland.
9
Rheumatology, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Finland.
10
Hematology Research Unit Helsinki, University of Helsinki and Department of Hematology, Helsinki University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center, Finland satu.mustjoki@helsinki.fi.

Abstract

Felty syndrome is a rare disease defined by neutropenia, splenomegaly, and rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes the differential diagnosis between Felty syndrome and large granular lymphocyte leukemia is problematic. Recently, somatic STAT3 and STAT5B mutations were discovered in 30-40% of patients with large granular lymphocyte leukemia. Herein, we aimed to study whether these mutations can also be detected in Felty syndrome, which would imply the existence of a common pathogenic mechanism between these two disease entities. We collected samples and clinical information from 14 Felty syndrome patients who were monitored at the rheumatology outpatient clinic for Felty syndrome. Somatic STAT3 mutations were discovered in 43% (6/14) of Felty syndrome patients with deep amplicon sequencing targeting all STAT3 exons. Mutations were located in the SH2 domain of STAT3, which is a known mutational hotspot. No STAT5B mutations were found. In blood smears, overrepresentation of large granular lymphocytes was observed, and in the majority of cases the CD8+ T-cell receptor repertoire was skewed when analyzed by flow cytometry. In bone marrow biopsies, an increased amount of phospho-STAT3 positive cells was discovered. Plasma cytokine profiling showed that ten of the 92 assayed cytokines were elevated both in Felty syndrome and large granular lymphocyte leukemia, and three of these cytokines were also increased in patients with uncomplicated rheumatoid arthritis. In conclusion, somatic STAT3 mutations and STAT3 activation are as frequent in Felty syndrome as they are in large granular lymphocyte leukemia. Considering that the symptoms and treatment modalities are also similar, a unified reclassification of these two syndromes is warranted.

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