Current opinion in hematology vol:11 issue:1 pages:51-7
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The idiopathic hypereosinophilic syndrome is a rare hematologic disorder characterized by sustained unexplained eosinophilia with associated end-organ damage and by a striking male predominance. The first insights into the molecular etiology of this heterogeneous disease were obtained from a "bedside-to-bench" approach. Successful empiric treatment of patients with the hypereosinophilic syndrome with the selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib mesylate (Gleevec, Novartis) ultimately led to the discovery of the FIP1L1-PDGFRalpha fusion kinase in about half of the hypereosinophilic syndrome cases. RECENT FINDINGS: The FIP1L1-PDGFRA fusion gene is generated by a cryptic interstitial chromosomal deletion, del(4)(q12q12), which indicates that these cases are clonal hematopoietic malignancies and should be reclassified as chronic eosinophilic leukemias based on current World Health Organization recommendations. In addition, the FIP1L1-PDGFRA fusion gene was also identified in cases with systemic mast cell disease. In vitro and in vivo studies confirmed that FIP1L1-PDGFRalpha is a therapeutic target of imatinib, forming a rational basis for the treatment of FIP1L1-PDGFRA positive chronic eosinophilic leukemia and mastocytosis with imatinib. Similar to BCR-ABL-positive leukemias, resistance to imatinib due to point mutations in the PDGFRalpha kinase domain may develop. We have explored strategies to circumvent resistance to imatinib using alternative tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as PKC412. SUMMARY: The discovery of the FIP1L1-PDGFRA fusion gene in the hypereosinophilic syndrome is an example of the power of clinical translational research and identifies interstitial chromosomal deletion as a novel mechanism to generate oncogenic tyrosine kinase fusion genes.