BMC Med Genomics 13 (1) 106 [2020-07-29; online 2020-07-29]
We have evaluated an NGS-based method to detect recurrent gene fusions of diagnostic and prognostic importance in hematological malignancies. Our goal was to achieve a highly specific assay with a simple workflow, short turnaround time and low cost. The assay uses a commercially available anchored multiplex PCR panel for target enrichment and library preparation, followed by sequencing using a MiSeq instrument. The panel includes all recurrent gene fusions in AML and ALL and is designed to detect gene-specific fusions without prior knowledge of the partner sequence or specific break points. Diagnostic RNA samples from 27 cases with hematological malignancies encompassing 23 different transcript variants were analyzed. In addition, 12 cases from a validation cohort were assessed. All known fusion transcripts were identified with a high degree of confidence, with a large number of reads covering the breakpoints. Importantly, we could identify gene fusions where conventional methods had failed due to cryptic rearrangements or rare fusion partners. The newly-identified fusion partners were verified by RT-PCR and transcript-specific qPCR was designed for patient-specific follow-up. In addition, 12 cases were correctly assessed in a blind test, without prior knowledge of molecular cytogenetics or diagnosis. In summary, our results demonstrate that targeted RNA sequencing using anchored multiplex PCR can be implemented in a clinical laboratory for the detection of recurrent and rare gene fusions in hematological diagnostic samples.