© 2014 by The American Society of Hematology.
The distinction between acquired aplastic anemia (AA) and hypocellular myelodysplastic syndrome (hMDS) is often difficult, especially nonsevere AA. We postulated that somatic mutations are present in a subset of AA, and predict malignant transformation. From our database, we identified 150 AA patients with no morphological evidence of MDS, who had stored bone marrow (BM) and constitutional DNA. We excluded Fanconi anemia, mutations of telomere maintenance, and a family history of BM failure (BMF) or cancer. The initial cohort of 57 patients was screened for 835 known genes associated with BMF and myeloid cancer; a second cohort of 93 patients was screened for mutations in ASXL1, DNMT3A, BCOR, TET2, and MPL. Somatic mutations were detected in 19% of AA, and included ASXL1 (n = 12), DNMT3A (n = 8) and BCOR (n = 6). Patients with somatic mutations had a longer disease duration (37 vs 8 months, P < .04), and shorter telomere lengths (median length, 0.9 vs 1.1, P < .001), compared with patients without mutations. Somatic mutations in AA patients with a disease duration of >6 months were associated with a 40% risk of transformation to MDS (P < .0002). Nearly one-fifth of AA patients harbor mutations in genes typically seen in myeloid malignancies that predicted for later transformation to MDS.