BMC Cancer 15 (-) 45 [2015-02-12; online 2015-02-12]
The evolution of mutations in the BCR-ABL1 fusion gene transcript renders CML patients resistant to tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) based therapy. Thus screening for BCR-ABL1 mutations is recommended particularly in patients experiencing poor response to treatment. Herein we describe a novel approach for the detection and surveillance of BCR-ABL1 mutations in CML patients. To detect mutations in the BCR-ABL1 transcript we developed an assay based on the Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) sequencing technology, which allows for single-molecule long-read sequencing of BCR-ABL1 fusion transcript molecules. Samples from six patients with poor response to therapy were analyzed both at diagnosis and follow-up. cDNA was generated from total RNA and a 1,6 kb fragment encompassing the BCR-ABL1 transcript was amplified using long range PCR. To estimate the sensitivity of the assay, a serial dilution experiment was performed. Over 10,000 full-length BCR-ABL1 sequences were obtained for all samples studied. Through the serial dilution analysis, mutations in CML patient samples could be detected down to a level of at least 1%. Notably, the assay was determined to be sufficiently sensitive even in patients harboring a low abundance of BCR-ABL1 levels. The PacBio sequencing successfully identified all mutations seen by standard methods. Importantly, we identified several mutations that escaped detection by the clinical routine analysis. Resistance mutations were found in all but one of the patients. Due to the long reads afforded by PacBio sequencing, compound mutations present in the same molecule were readily distinguished from independent alterations arising in different molecules. Moreover, several transcript isoforms of the BCR-ABL1 transcript were identified in two of the CML patients. Finally, our assay allowed for a quick turn around time allowing samples to be reported upon within 2 days. In summary the PacBio sequencing assay can be applied to detect BCR-ABL1 resistance mutations in both diagnostic and follow-up CML patient samples using a simple protocol applicable to routine diagnosis. The method besides its sensitivity, gives a complete view of the clonal distribution of mutations, which is of importance when making therapy decisions.