We report for the first time the biological features of MRD cells in MM and unravel that clonal selection is already present at the MRD stage.
MRD cells show a singular phenotypic signature that may result from persisting clones with different genetic and gene expression profiles.
Persistence of chemoresistant minimal residual disease (MRD) plasma cells (PCs) is associated with inferior survival in multiple myeloma (MM). Thus, characterization of the minor MRD subclone may represent a unique model to understand chemoresistance, but to our knowledge, the phenotypic and genetic features of the MRD subclone have never been investigated. Here, we compared the antigenic profile of MRD vs diagnostic clonal PCs in 40 elderly MM patients enrolled in the GEM2010MAS65 study and showed that the MRD subclone is enriched in cells overexpressing integrins (CD11a/CD11c/CD29/CD49d/CD49e), chemokine receptors (CXCR4), and adhesion molecules (CD44/CD54). Genetic profiling of MRD vs diagnostic PCs was performed in 12 patients; 3 of them showed identical copy number alterations (CNAs), in another 3 cases, MRD clonal PCs displayed all genetic alterations detected at diagnosis plus additional CNAs that emerged at the MRD stage, whereas in the remaining 6 patients, there were CNAs present at diagnosis that were undetectable in MRD clonal PCs, but also a selected number of genetic alterations that became apparent only at the MRD stage. The MRD subclone showed significant downregulation of genes related to protein processing in endoplasmic reticulum, as well as novel deregulated genes such as ALCAM that is prognostically relevant in MM and may identify chemoresistant PCs in vitro. Altogether, our results suggest that therapy-induced clonal selection could be already present at the MRD stage, where chemoresistant PCs show a singular phenotypic signature that may result from the persistence of clones with different genetic and gene expression profiles. This trial was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT01237249.
- Submitted August 20, 2015.
- Accepted December 28, 2015.
- © 2016 by The American Society of Hematology
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