INTRODUCTION: The prognostic value of B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL2) expression in de novo diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) treated with immunochemotherapy is of interest to define a target patient population for clinical development of BCL2 inhibitors. We aimed to develop a reproducible immunohistochemistry algorithm and assay to determine BCL2 protein expression and assess the prognostic value of BCL2 in newly diagnosed DLBCL cohorts.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: The prospectively defined algorithm incorporated BCL2 staining intensity and percentage of BCL2-positive cells. Functionally relevant cutoffs were based on the sensitivity of lymphoma cell lines to venetoclax. This assay was highly reproducible across laboratories. The prognostic impact of BCL2 expression was assessed in DLBCL patients from the phase 3 MAIN (n = 230) and GOYA (n = 366) trials, and a population-based registry (n = 310).
RESULTS: Approximately 50% of tumors were BCL2 positive, with a higher frequency in high International Prognostic Index (IPI) and activated B-cell-like DLBCL subgroups. BCL2 expression was associated with poorer progression-free survival in the MAIN study (hazard ratio [HR], 1.66; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.81-3.40; multivariate Cox regression adjusted for IPI and cell of origin). This trend was confirmed in the GOYA and registry cohorts in adjusted multivariate analyses (GOYA: HR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.05-2.82; registry: HR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.29-2.78). Patients with BCL2 immunohistochemistry-positive and IPI-high disease had the poorest prognosis: 3-year progression-free survival rates were 51% (GOYA) and 37% (registry).
CONCLUSION: Findings support use of our BCL2 immunohistochemistry scoring system and assay to select patients with BCL2-positive tumors for future studies.