The plethora of knowledge gained on myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a heterogeneous pre-malignant disorder of hematopoietic stem cells, through sequencing of several pathway genes has unveiled molecular pathogenesis and its progression to AML. Evolution of phenotypic classification and risk-stratification based on peripheral cytopenias and blast count has moved to five-tier risk-groups solely concerning chromosomal aberrations. Increased frequency of complex abnormalities, which is associated with genetic instability, defines the subgroup of worst prognosis in MDS. However, the independent effect of monosomal karyotype remains controversial. Recent discoveries on mutations in RNA-splicing machinery (SF3B1, SRSF2, ZRSR2, U2AF1, U2AF2); DNA methylation (TET2, DNMT3A, IDH1/2); chromatin modification (ASXL1, EZH2); transcription factor (TP53, RUNX1); signal transduction/kinases (FLT3, JAK2); RAS pathway (KRAS, NRAS, CBL, NF1, PTPN11); cohesin complex (STAG2, CTCF, SMC1A, RAD21); DNA repair (ATM, BRCC3, DLRE1C, FANCL); and other pathway genes have given insights into the independent effects and interaction of co-occurrence of mutations on disease-phenotype. RNA-splicing and DNA methylation mutations appeared to occur early and are reported as 'founder' mutations in over 50% MDS patients. TET2 mutation, through altered DNA methylation, has been found to have independent prognostic response to hypomethylating agents. Moreover, presence of DNMT3A, TET2 and ASXL1 mutations in normal elderly individuals forms the basis of understanding that accumulation of somatic mutations may not cause direct disease-development; however, cooperation with other mutations in the genes that are frequently mutated in myeloid and other hematopoietic cancers might result in clonal expansion through self-renewal and/or proliferation of hematopoietic stem cells. Identification of small molecules as inhibitors of epigenetic mutations has opened avenues for tailoring targeted drug development. The recommendations of a Clinical Advisory Committee is being considered by WHO for a revised classification of risk-groups of MDS, which is likely to be published in mid 2016, based on the new developments and discoveries of gene mutations.
- myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)