Abstract

The treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a disease caused by t(9;22)(q34;q11) reciprocal translocation, has advanced largely through the use of targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). To identify molecular differences that might distinguish TKI responders from non-responders, we performed single cell RNA sequencing on cells (n = 41,723 cells) obtained from the peripheral blood of four CML patients at different stages of treatment to generate single cell expression profiles. Analysis of our single cell expression profiles in conjunction with those previously obtained from the bone marrow of additional CML patients and healthy donors (total = 69,263 cells) demonstrated that imatinib treatment significantly altered leukocyte population compositions in both responders and non-responders, and affected the expression profiles of multiple cell populations, including non-neoplastic cell types. Notably, in imatinib poor-responders, patient-specific pre-treatment unique stem/progenitor cells became enriched in peripheral blood compared to the responders. These results indicate that resistance to TKIs might be intrinsic in some CML patients rather than acquired, and that non-neoplastic immune cell types may also play vital roles in dispersing the responsiveness of patients to TKIs. Furthermore, these results demonstrated the potential utility of peripheral blood as a diagnostic tool in the TKI sensitivity of CML patients.