Myeloma is characterized by extensive inter-patient genomic heterogeneity due to multiple different initiating events. A recent multi-region sequencing study demonstrated spatial differences, with progression events, such as TP53
mutations, frequently being restricted to focal lesions. In this review article, we describe the clinical impact of these two types of tumor heterogeneity. Target mutations are often dominant at one site but absent at other sites, which poses a significant challenge to personalized therapy in myeloma. The same holds true for high-risk subclones, which can be locally restricted, and as such not detectable at the iliac crest, which is the usual sampling site. Imaging can improve current risk classifiers and monitoring of residual disease, but does not allow for deciphering the molecular characteristics of tumor clones. In the era of novel immunotherapies, the clinical impact of heterogeneity certainly needs to be re-defined. Yet, preliminary observations indicate an ongoing impact of spatial heterogeneity on the efficacy of monoclonal antibodies. In conclusion, we recommend combining molecular tests with imaging to improve risk prediction and monitoring of residual disease. Overcoming intra-tumor heterogeneity is the prerequisite for curing myeloma. Novel immunotherapies are promising but research addressing their impact on the spatial clonal architecture is highly warranted.
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