The High Mobility Group Box 1 (HMGB1) is a nuclear protein that is frequently overexpressed in hematologic diseases and might be of relevance in immunogenic cancer control thus correlating with patients’ (pts.) prognosis in diseases such as acute myeloid, acute lymphatic and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Expression profiles of blasts from AML (n = 21), ALL (n = 16) and of B-lymphocytes of CLL (n = 9) pts. were analyzed for surface expression of HMGB1 using flow cytometry. Expression was quantified and correlated with clinically and prognostically relevant markers.
Expression profiling of HMGB1 in blasts of AML and ALL subtypes did not show differences between primary vs. secondary disease development and gender related differences. In ALL pts. however, age groups at initial diagnosis between ≥20 vs. <20 years were compared and showed significant differences (≥20 vs. <20 years; 89% vs. 49%, p  <0.05) with higher expression in higher age. In AML and CLL these differences were not visible. To evaluate the prognostic significance of HMGB1 expression, expression quantity was correlated with established and prognostic classification systems (in AML ELN, in ALL GMALL) and probability to relapse. No significant correlation was seen in these entities. However, when AML pts. were analyzed for remission rates after first anthracycline based induction therapy, in those who did not experience a complete remission significantly enhanced HMGB1 surface expression was seen (98 vs. 94%; p < 0.05; n = 20). Furthermore, for CLL it was shown that higher HMGB1 expression was found in pretreated patients with relapsed or/and refractory disease (1 vs. more relapses; 94 vs. 98%; p  <0.05; n = 9).
HMGB1 is frequently expressed in hematologic malignancies. In this study it was shown that HMGB1 surface expression on AML blasts can be used as predictors for treatment response. In CLL it may be a marker for advanced disease. In order to implement this marker in FACS routine it could be a useful and practical tool for prognostic assessment and treatment planning.