Accumulating evidence indicates that intratumor heterogeneity is prevalent in multiple myeloma and that a collection of multiple, genetically distinct subclones are present within the myeloma cell population. It is not clear whether the size of clonal myeloma populations harboring unique cytogenetic abnormalities carry any additional prognostic value.
We analyzed the prognostic impact of cytogenetic aberrations by fluorescence in situ hybridization at different cutoff values in a cohort of 333 patients with newly diagnosed myeloma and 92 patients with relapsed myeloma.
We found that nearly all IgH-related arrangements were observed in a large majority of the purified plasma cells; however, 13q deletion, 17p deletion, and 1q21 amplification appeared in different percentages within the malignant plasma cell population. Based on the size of subclones carrying these cytogenetic aberrations, the patients were divided into four groups: 0%-10%, 10.5%-20%, 20.5%-50%, and >50%. Receiver-operating characteristics analysis was applied to determine the optimal cutoff value with the greatest differential survival and showed that the most powerful clone sizes were 10% for 13q deletion, 50% for 17p deletion, and 20% for 1q21 gains, which provided the best possible cutoffs for predicting poor outcomes.
Our study indicated that the impact of clone size on prognostic value varies between specific genetic abnormalities. Prognostic value was observed for even a subgroup of plasma cells harboring the cytogenetic aberration of 13q deletion and 1q21 gains; however, 17p deletion displayed the most powerful cutoff for predicting survival only if the predominant clones harbored the abnormality.