Monitoring therapy responses at the leukemic subclone level by ultra-deep amplicon resequencing in acute myeloid leukemia
In our individualized systems medicine program, personalized treatment options are identified and administered to chemorefractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients based on exome sequencing and ex vivo drug sensitivity and resistance testing data. Here, we analyzed how clonal heterogeneity affects the responses of 13 AML patients to chemotherapy or targeted treatments using ultra-deep (average 68 000 × coverage) amplicon resequencing. Using amplicon resequencing, we identified 16 variants from 4 patients (frequency 0.54-2%) that were not detected previously by exome sequencing. A correlation-based method was developed to detect mutation-specific responses in serial samples across multiple time points. Significant subclone-specific responses were observed for both chemotherapy and targeted therapy. We detected subclonal responses in patients where clinical European LeukemiaNet (ELN) criteria showed no response. Subclonal responses also helped to identify putative mechanisms underlying drug sensitivities, such as sensitivity to azacitidine in DNMT3A mutated cell clones and resistance to cytarabine in a subclone with loss of NF1 gene. In summary, ultra-deep amplicon resequencing method enables sensitive quantification of subclonal variants and their responses to therapies. This approach provides new opportunities for designing combinatorial therapies blocking multiple subclones as well as for real-time assessment of such treatments.