The study of the impact of selected mutations in FMS-like Tyrosine Kinase III (FLT3) and Nucleophosmin (NPM1) - and HIV status on patients with acute Myeloid Leukemia and their response to induction therapy.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), the most common form of acute leukemia in adults, is only curable in approximately 30% of all cases. Despite prognostic risk stratification using sub-typing and cytogenetic analysis to direct therapy, the mortality and relapse rate remains high. AML patients with normal karyotypes are defined as intermediate risk and are the most challenging to treat. Somatic mutations may be the key in refining prognostic stratification and providing useful therapeutic targets. The FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) and Nucleophosmin (NPM1) genes have common mutated forms that are associated with overall survival and response to therapy. We assessed mutations in the FLT3 and NPM1 genes and their levels of expression in twenty eight AML patients in the presence and absence of HIV and their response to induction therapy. Furthermore, we used a novel technique, High Resolution Melting (HRM) Analysis to detect FLT3 Internal Tandem Duplications (ITD) and NPM1 exon 12 mutations. Five of the patients in this study were HIV positive, three of whom did not survive post-induction therapy. Of the AML patients, 17.9% were positive for the NPM1 mutation and 21% had mutated FLT3. Interestingly, the presence of the FLT3 and NPM1 mutations were coupled with an increase in expression levels of FLT3 and NPM1 from presentation to post-induction respectively and the loss of these mutations were coupled with a decrease in levels of expression from presentation to post-induction. However, an increase/decrease from presentation to post-induction did not necessarily denote the presence/absence of a mutation. Therefore, while mutational status of genes may generally confer mRNA levels, our results showed that there existed no definitive trend between mRNA levels of NPM1 and FLT3 expression and mutational status. We found that the HRM method was definitive for the simpler NPM1 mutation however detection of the FLT3-ITD mutation was challenging. There isn’t a clear distinction between mutated and non-mutated FLT3 due to the formation of hetero-duplexes during analysis, making detection highly subjective and error-prone. Sequencing allowed confirmation of mutated FLT3 and non-mutated FLT3 which were not in all instances in concordance with HRM analysis. The prognostic value in terms of overall survival of NPM1 and FLT3 mutations in this study is indefinite. Furthermore, the analysis of the HIV positive AML patients revealed no clear correlation between NPM1 and FLT3 levels of mRNA expression and mutational status. Also, the small number of HIV positive AML patients did not allow for conclusions to be made regarding HIV status and survival when affected with AML.