T-cell clonality assessment by next-generation sequencing improves detection sensitivity in mycosis fungoides

Kari E. Sufficool, Christina M. Lockwood, Haley J. Abel, Ian S. Hagemann, Jonathan A. Schumacher, Todd W. Kelley, Eric J. Duncavage

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61 Scopus citations


Background T-cell receptor (TCR) clonality assessment is a principal diagnostic test in the management of mycosis fungoides (MF). However, current polymerase chain reaction-based methods may produce ambiguous results, often because of low abundance of clonal T lymphocytes, resulting in weak clonal peaks that cannot be size-resolved by contemporary capillary electrophoresis (CE). Objective We sought to determine if next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based detection has increased sensitivity for T-cell clonality over CE-based detection in MF. Methods Clonality was determined by an NGS-based method in which the TCR-γ variable region was polymerase chain reaction amplified and the products sequenced to establish the identity of rearranged variable and joining regions. Results Of the 35 MF cases tested, 29 (85%) showed a clonal T-cell rearrangement by NGS, compared with 15 (44%) by standard CE detection. Three patients with MF had follow-up testing that showed identical, clonal TCR sequences in subsequent skin biopsy specimens. Limitations Clonal T-cell populations have been described in benign conditions; evidence of clonality alone, by any method, is not sufficient for diagnosis. Conclusion TCR clonality assessment by NGS has superior sensitivity compared with CE-based detection. Further, NGS enables tracking of specific clones across multiple time points for more accurate identification of recurrent MF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-236.e2
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • T-cell clonality
  • T-cell receptor rearrangement
  • cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
  • molecular diagnostics
  • mycosis fungoides
  • next-generation sequencing


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