High nerve growth factor receptor (p75NTR) expression is a favourable prognostic factor in paediatric B cell precursor-acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
Nerve growth factor (NGF) plays a pivotal role in cellular survival/death decisions with the low affinity receptor p75NTR predominately transmitting anti-proliferative signals. In spite of its established role in B-cell function and identification as a prognostically favourable marker in a number of malignancies, little is known about the expression pattern and prognostic significance of p75NTR in B cell precursor-acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (BCP-ALL). p75NTR expression was prospectively studied on primary ALL-blasts in a cohort of paediatric patients with common ALL (n = 86) and preB-ALL (n = 34) treated within the Co-operative study group for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (CoALL) protocol, CoALL06-97. Flow cytometric analysis showed that almost half of the patients expressed no or negligible amounts of p75NTR (<10%). The median expression in patients expressing p75NTR beyond that threshold was 49% (range 11-100%). In patients classified as low-risk at diagnosis, p75NTR expression was significantly higher than in high-risk patients (P = 0.001). Of note, p75NTR expression was lower in the 21 patients who subsequently developed relapse compared with those remaining in remission (P = 0.038). Accordingly, relapse-free survival was significantly better in patients expressing high surface p75NTR (P = 0.041). Thus, in this prospective analysis, high p75NTR expression was a strong prognostic marker that identified a group of paediatric ALL patients with favourable outcome.