Prognostic significance of the PANK family expression in acute myeloid leukemia
Original Article

Prognostic significance of the PANK family expression in acute myeloid leukemia

Yan Liu1,2,3,4,5#, Zhiheng Cheng6#, Qihui Li3#, Yifan Pang7, Longzhen Cui2, Tingting Qian1,4, Liang Quan1,4, Yifeng Dai8, Yang Jiao9, Zhihui Zhang10, Xu Ye1, Jinlong Shi11, Lin Fu1,4,5

1Department of Hematology, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou 510260, China; 2Translational Medicine Center, Huaihe Hospital of Henan University, Kaifeng 475000, China; 3Department of Hematology and Lymphoma Research Center, Peking University, Third Hospital, Beijing 100191, China; 4Translational Medicine Center, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou 510260, China; 5Department of Hematology, Huaihe Hospital of Henan University, Kaifeng 475000, China; 6Department of Pathology and Medical Biology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands; 7Department of Medicine, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI 48073, USA; 8Immunoendocrinology, Division of Medical Biology, Department of Pathology and Medical Biology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands; 9Life Sciences Institute and Innovation Center for Cell Signaling Network, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China; 10Department of Stomatology, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing 100191, China; 11Department of Medical Big Data, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing 100853, China

Contributions: (I) Conception and design: Y Liu, Z Cheng; (II) Administrative support: Q Li, Y Pang, L Cui; (III) Provision of study materials or patients: T Qian, L Quan, Y Dai; (IV) Collection and assembly of data: J Shi, L Fu; (V) Data analysis and interpretation: Y Jiao, Z Zhang, X Ye; (VI) Manuscript writing: All authors; (VII) Final approval of manuscript: All authors.

#These authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence to: Lin Fu, MD, PhD. Department of Hematology, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou 510260, China. Email: fulin022@126.com.

Background: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a highly heterogenous hematological malignancy and its prognostication depends on the genetic mutation and expression profile of each patient. Pantothenate kinase (PANK) is a regulatory enzyme that controls coenzyme A (CoA) biosynthesis. It has four isoforms encoded by PANK1-4, respectively. Whether the expression of the PANK family has prognostic significance in AML remains unclear.

Methods: We screened The Cancer Genome Atlas database for AML patients with complete PANK1-4 expression data. Eighty-four AML patients met the criteria and were included in this study. Clinical characteristics at diagnosis, including peripheral blood (PB) white blood cell counts (WBC), blast percentages in PB and bone marrow (BM), French-American-British (FAB) subtypes and the frequencies of common genetic mutations were described. Survival was estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method and the log-rank test. Multivariate Cox proportional hazard models were constructed for event-free survival (EFS) and overall survival (OS), using a limited backward elimination procedure.

Results: Patients with high PANK2 expression had significantly longer event-free survival (EFS) and overall survival (OS) than patients with low PANK2 expression (P=0.007, P=0.016, respectively), whereas patients with high PANK4 expression had shorter EFS and OS than patients with low PANK4 expression (P=0.022, P=0.015, respectively). Multivariate analysis confirmed that high PANK4 expression was an independent risk factor for EFS and OS (both P<0.05).

Conclusions: Our study suggested that high PANK2 expression might have favorable effects on AML, while high PANK4 expression was indicative of poor prognosis.

Keywords: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML); heterogeneity; pantothenate kinase (PANK); prognosis


Submitted Jan 17, 2019. Accepted for publication Apr 26, 2019.

doi: 10.21037/atm.2019.05.28


Introduction

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a hematological malignancy due to unchecked clonal expansion of mutated myeloid hematopoietic cells (1). It is highly aggressive and harbors widely heterogeneous clinical and genetic features, which makes the individualized diagnosis, treatment and prognostication of each patient particularly challenging (2). The current AML risk stratification systems are not perfect, although many genetic markers have been included to assist the prognosis evaluation, such as FLT3-ITD, NMP1, TP53 and CEBPA, of which FLT3-ITD and TP53 mutations are adverse, and CEBPA double-mutations and NPM1 mutation are favorable prognostic markers in AML (3-6). Nevertheless, with the development of next generation sequencing (NGS), the AML mutational spectrum has gained more details, more genetic and epigenetic markers are being identified for better risk stratification and therapeutic design (7,8).

Pantothenate kinase (PANK) is a rate-limiting enzyme in coenzyme A (CoA) synthesis (9). It has four isoforms encoded by PANK1-4, but only the proteins encoded by PANK1-3 have functional pantothenate kinase activities (10). Previous studies showed that the PANKs are involved in tumorigenesis. PANK2 has positive effect on the treatment of papillary and anaplastic thyroid cancer by triggering larger transcriptomic alterations (11). MiR-103, which is buried in the PANK3 gene, is a useful prognostic biomarker for leukemia (12). PANK1 plays an important role in the regulation of p53-dependent energy homeostasis (13). The prognostic role of the PANK family in AML remains unknown. Here we aim to analyze the prognostic significance of the expression of the PANK family in AML.


Methods

Patients

The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database (https://cancergenome.nih.gov/) was screened for AML patients with complete PANK1-4 expression data and 84 patients who met the criteria were included in the study (14). All patients were between age 22 and 88, and only received chemotherapy, i.e., no patient had stem cell transplant. Data on the patients’ clinical and molecular characteristics at diagnosis were downloaded from the database, including peripheral blood (PB) white blood cell (WBC) counts, blast percentages in PB and bone marrow (BM), the distributions of the French-American-British (FAB) subtypes and the molecular-cytogenetic risk group, and the mutation frequencies of common recurrent genetic mutations. Event-free survival (EFS) and overall survival (OS) were study endpoints. Informed consents were obtained from all patients, and the study protocol was approved by the Human Research Council of University of Washington.

Statistical analysis

The clinical and molecular characteristics of patients were summarized using descriptive statistics. Numerical data was compared using the Mann-Whitney U test, and categorical data was compared using the Chi-Square test. EFS was defined as the time from diagnosis to removal from the study due to relapse, death or failure to achieve complete remission, or was censored at the last follow-up. OS was defined as the time from diagnosis to death from any cause, or was censored at the last follow-up. EFS and OS were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method and the log-rank test. Multivariate proportional hazards models were constructed for EFS and OS, using a limited backward elimination procedure. P<0.05 was considered statistically significant for all analyses. All statistical tests were two sided and performed by SPSS software 20.0 and GraphPad Prism software 7.0.


Results

Association of different expression levels of the PANK members with EFS and OS in AML patients

To evaluate the association of the PANK family expression and survival of the AML patients who only received chemotherapy, Kaplan-Meier method and the log-rank test were performed and the results were presented in Table 1. High expression levels of PANK2 and PANK4, i.e., the expression levels were higher than the median in the group, had associations with survival. Specifically, patients with high PANK2 expression had longer EFS and OS than those with low PANK2 expression (P=0.007, P=0.016, respectively, Figure 1A,B); patients with high PANK4 expression had shorter EFS and OS than those with low PANK4 expression (P=0.022, P=0.015, respectively, Figure 1C,D).

Table 1
Table 1 Comparison of EFS and OS between different expression levels of PANK1-4
Full table
Figure 1 Kaplan-Meier curves of EFS and OS based on expression levels of PANK2 and PANK4. (A,B) Patients with high PANK2 expression had longer EFS and OS than the patients with low expression of PANK2. (C,D) Patients with high PANK4 expression had shorter EFS and OS than the patients with low expression of PANK4. EFS, event-free survival; OS, overall survival.

Comparison of the clinical and molecular characteristics in different expression groups of PANK2 and PANK4

According to the median expression levels of PANK2 or PANK4, all patients were divided into high and low expression groups respectively. Comparison of the clinical and molecular characteristics between different groups were summarized in Table 2. The PANK2high group had more patients with age <60 years (P=0.018), lower PB blasts percentage (P=0.014), more FAB-M5 patients (P=0.004), and fewer patients with complex karyotype than the PANK2low group. No significant differences were found in gender distribution, race, peripheral WBC count, BM blasts, risk-group distribution and frequencies of common genetic mutations (FLT3-ITD, NPM1, DNMT3A, RUNX1, TET2, TP53, TTN, MT-CO2, CEBPA, IDH1/IDH2, NRAS/KRAS) between the two groups. The PANK4high group had more male patients (P=0.049), lower PB blasts percentage (P=0.003), more patients with complex karyotype (P=0.004), more patients with poor-risk cytogenetics (P=0.004), lower mutation frequency of IDH1/IDH2 (P=0.046) and higher frequency of TP53 (P=0.002). No significant differences were found in age, race, peripheral WBC count, BM blasts, FAB subtypes and frequencies of other common genetic mutations (FLT3-ITD, NPM1, DNMT3A, RUNX1, TET2, TTN, MT.CO2, CEBPA, NRAS/KRAS) between the two groups.

Table 2
Table 2 Comparison of clinical and molecular characteristics in different groups
Full table

Prognostic value of PANK2 and PANK4 expression in AML patients

To further evaluate prognostic value of PANK2 and PANK4, multivariate Cox proportional hazard models were constructed, involving factors that had significant association (P<0.05) with EFS and/or OS in the Univariate analysis (Table S1), such as the expression levels of PANK2 and PANK4 (high vs. low), age (≥60 vs. <60 years), BM blast percentage (≥70% vs. <70%), PB blast percentage (≥70% vs. <70%) and recurrent genetic mutations (DNMT3A and TP53, mutated vs. wild type). We also involved factors that had established survival impact on AML, including peripheral WBC count (≥15×109/L vs. <15×109/L), FLT3-ITD (positive vs. negative), and genetic mutations (NPM1 mutated vs. wild type). Results of the multivariate analysis were shown in Table 3. High PANK4 expression and age ≥60 years were independent risk factors for EFS and OS (all P<0.05). In addition, PB blasts ≥70% and TP53 mutation were independent risk factors for EFS (all P=0.031).

Table S1
Table S1 Univariate analysis of EFS and OS
Full table
Table 3
Table 3 Multivariate analysis of EFS and OS
Full table

Discussion

In this study, we found that high PANK2 expression could have a favorable prognostic impact on AML, although the effect was not independent, but high PANK4 expression definitely played an independently negative role in the survival of AML patients who only received chemotherapy.

Several studies demonstrated a significant role of the PANK family in cancer. A study found that PANK2 can be a therapeutic target for thyroid cancer (11). MiR-103, which is encoded by the PANK3 gene, and is expressed as a biproduct of PANK3, plays an important role in prognosis of leukemia (12). PANK1, a direct transcriptional target of p53, is associated with the regulation of energy homeostasis in human colon cancer cells (13). Taken together, these results, although limited, indicated that PANK members may exert important effects on tumorigenesis.

In this study, we found that the PANK2high group had more young patients, lower PB blast percentage and fewer patients with FAB-M5 subtype, suggesting that these factors may have some combined favorable effect in AML. In addition, we found that high PANK4 expression was more common in patients with poor-risk and complex karyotype. This concurred with previous studies that the prognosis of AML patients with complex karyotype and poor-risk is generally poor (15,16). High PANK4 expression was more likely to co-exist with TP53 mutation and FAB-M5 subtype. It is known that FAB-M5 patients usually are more refractory to treatment and have poor prognosis (17), and TP53 mutation are related to adverse prognosis in complex karyotype AML (18). Moreover, high PANK4, but not high PANK2 expression, was an independent risk factor for EFS and OS, demonstrated by multivariate analysis. Hence, high expressions of PANK2 and PANK4 all can affect the prognosis of AML patients, but high PANK4 expression has a stronger effect.

The mechanisms of the tumorigenic role of PANK2 and PANK4 are under investigation. Zhou et al. reported that abnormal expression of PANK2 leads to aggregation of cysteine and synthesis of oxygen free radicals, further regulating oxidative stress inside cells (19). AML cells are susceptible to oxidative stress due to low spare reserve capacity in their respiratory chain (20), therefore PANK2 may affect the survival of patients by enhancing the oxidative stress in leukemic cells and promote cell death. Previous research also reported that overexpression of PANK4 could inhibit cell apoptosis in the pancreas by decreasing the transcriptional level of pro-caspase-9 (21). Combined with our results, we speculated that high PANK4 expression might also suppress AML cell apoptosis by inhibiting pro-caspase-9 expression, leading to shorter survival of patients.

In addition to the above findings, in multivariate analysis, we also found that age ≥60 years, PB blasts ≥70% and TP53 mutation had adverse effects on EFS and OS, consistent with the facts that elderly AML patients usually had adverse prognosis due to higher mutation frequency, poorer baseline performance status and more comorbidities (22), and the well-established knowledge that TP53 mutation conferred adverse prognosis in complex karyotype AML (16). In studies of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia, PB blast percentage is an adverse prognostic factor, yet this role has not been well-recognized in AML (23).


Conclusions

In summary, our study revealed that high expressions of PANK2 was associated with better survival, but PANK4 was an independent poor prognostic factor, in AML patients who only received chemotherapy. Due to the limitation of sample size, our study would require further verification by large prospective cohorts.


Acknowledgments

Funding: This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81500118, 61501519, 81800983), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation funded project (Project No.2016M600443), Jiangsu Province Postdoctoral Science Foundation funded project (Project No. 1701184B), PLAGH project of Medical Big Data (Project No. 2016MBD-025).


Footnote

Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical Statement: Informed consents were obtained from all patients, and the study protocol was approved by the Human Research Council of University of Washington.


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Cite this article as: Liu Y, Cheng Z, Li Q, Pang Y, Cui L, Qian T, Quan L, Dai Y, Jiao Y, Zhang Z, Ye X, Shi J, Fu L. Prognostic significance of the PANK family expression in acute myeloid leukemia. Ann Transl Med 2019;7(12):261. doi: 10.21037/atm.2019.05.28