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Basophil-lineage commitment in acute promyelocytic leukemia predicts for severe bleeding after starting therapy


Severe hemorrhagic events occur in a significant fraction of acute promyelocytic leukemia patients, either at presentation and/or early after starting therapy, leading to treatment failure and early deaths. However, identification of independent predictors for high-risk of severe bleeding at diagnosis, remains a challenge. Here, we investigated the immunophenotype of bone marrow leukemic cells from 109 newly diagnosed acute promyelocytic leukemia patients, particularly focusing on the identification of basophil-related features, and their potential association with severe bleeding episodes and patient overall survival.

From all phenotypes investigated on leukemic cells, expression of the CD203c and/or CD22 basophil-associated markers showed the strongest association with the occurrence and severity of bleeding (p ≤ 0.007); moreover, aberrant expression of CD7, coexpression of CD34+/CD7+ and lack of CD71 was also more frequently found among patients with (mild and severe) bleeding at baseline and/or after starting treatment (p ≤ 0.009). Multivariate analysis showed that CD203c expression (hazard ratio: 26.4; p = 0.003) and older age (hazard ratio: 5.4; p = 0.03) were the best independent predictors for cumulative incidence of severe bleeding after starting therapy. In addition, CD203c expression on leukemic cells (hazard ratio: 4.4; p = 0.01), low fibrinogen levels (hazard ratio: 8.8; p = 0.001), older age (hazard ratio: 9.0; p = 0.002), and high leukocyte count (hazard ratio: 5.6; p = 0.02) were the most informative independent predictors for overall survival.

In summary, our results show that the presence of basophil-associated phenotypic characteristics on leukemic cells from acute promyelocytic leukemia patients at diagnosis is a powerful independent predictor for severe bleeding and overall survival, which might contribute in the future to (early) risk-adapted therapy decisions.

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This work was supported by the Fundación Científica de la Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer (AECC, Madrid, Spain) and the Fundación Rafael del Pino (Madrid, Spain) and both CIBERONC (CB16/12/00400, CB16/12/00233, CB16/12/00480) and grant PI16/00787 from Instituto de Salud Carlos III (Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Madrid, Spain).

Author contributions

SM performed research, analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript; CF and PL contributed substantially to the laboratory work and analyzed data; EC provided patient samples and clinical data and analyzed data; MCC and MG performed molecular studies; CSO, TC-V, VVDV, MJ-L, OG, AYB, LGA, GG-D, DR, MBG and CDRS provided patient samples and retrieved relevant clinical information from patient records; AM critically revised the paper and analyzed data; MLG performed iFISH studies; PB performed FACS-sorting studies; MBV and AL compiled immunophenotypic data files and reports; JVD provided patient samples and clinical data; AO designed research, analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript. All authors have contributed to the writing review and approved the manuscript.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Correspondence to Alberto Orfao.

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