Extramedullary leukemia behaving as solid cancer: clinical, histologic, and genetic clues to chemoresistance in organ sites

Isabel Cunningham, Diane Hamele-Bena, Yan Guo, Takayuki Shiomi, Audrey C. Papp, Bandana Chakravarti, Jianqi Yang, Yu Shyr, Rory A. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies of leukemic tumors in individual extramedullary sites showed they adopt the clinical and metastatic behavior of solid cancers originating in those sites. To elucidate features of leukemic tumors that render them resistant to agents effective against marrow leukemia, we analyzed a series of AML breast tumors by histology, immunohistochemistry, and RNA sequencing. Striking histologic similarities to solid cancers were found: a single-filing architectural pattern virtually identical to that of invasive lobular breast carcinoma and dense desmoplastic keloid-like fibrosis similar to colon, gallbladder, and pancreas carcinomas. Sequencing found 2157 genes significantly downregulated in AML breast tumors compared to normal breast. Comparison to triple-negative breast cancer found 859 genes similarly downregulated. At least 30 of these genes have been associated with poor prognosis in breast cancers. Five were reported in AML marrow studies to correlate with poor prognosis. The findings of this pilot study suggest the seed-and-soil interaction recognized in solid cancer growth may help explain how leukemic cells, in some patients, adopt solid tumor behavior in non-marrow sites. Transformed cells that metastasize from tumor to marrow can impart chemoresistance and be an unrecognized cause of treatment failure and death. Further studies comparing leukemic tumor to simultaneous marrow could potentially identify biomarkers that predict extramedullary resistance and lead to new therapeutic targets. Recognizing the potential for leukemia to adopt solid tumor phenotype, and implementation of body scanning and ablative tumor treatment, could decrease the persistently high rates of marrow resistance and treatment failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1200-1207
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Hematology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Hematology


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