Ibrutinib is a highly effective targeted therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). However, ibrutinib must be discontinued in a subset of patients due to progressive CLL or transformation to aggressive lymphoma (Richter transformation). Transformation occurs early in the course of therapy and has an extremely poor prognosis. Thus, identification of prognostic markers associated with transformation is of utmost importance. Near-tetraploidy (4 copies of most chromosomes within a cell) has been reported in various lymphomas, but its incidence and significance in CLL has not been described. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization, we detected near-tetraploidy in 9 of 297 patients with CLL prior to beginning ibrutinib treatment on 1 of 4 clinical trials (3.0%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.4%-5.7%). Near-tetraploidy was associated with aggressive disease characteristics: Rai stage 3/4 (P 5 .03), deletion 17p (P 5 .03), and complex karyotype (P 5 .01). Near-tetraploidy was also associated with ibrutinib discontinuation due to Richter transformation (P, .0001), but not due to progressive CLL (P 5 .41). Of the 9 patients with near-tetraploidy, 6 had Richter transformation with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. In a multivariable model, near-tetraploidy (hazard ratio [HR], 8.66; 95% CI, 3.83-19.59; P, .0001) and complex karyotype (HR, 4.77; 95% CI, 1.42-15.94; P 5 .01) were independent risk factors for discontinuing ibrutinib due to transformation. Our results suggest that near-tetraploidy is a potential prognostic marker for Richter transformation to assess in patients going on ibrutinib.
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