Bio

Clinical Focus


  • Clinical Pathology

Academic Appointments


Professional Education


  • Board Certification: Molecular Genetic Pathology, American Board of Pathology
  • Board Certification: Clinical Cytogenetics, American Board of Medical Genetics
  • Fellowship:Stanford Hospital and Clinics (06/2010) CA
  • Fellowship:Stanford Hospital and Clinics (06/2008) CA
  • Residency:Stanford Hospital and Clinics (08/2009) CA
  • Internship:Stanford Hospital and Clinics (08/2006) CA
  • Medical Education:University of North Carolina School of Medicine (08/2005) NC
  • Board Certification: Clinical Pathology, American Board of Pathology (2009)

Research & Scholarship

Clinical Trials


  • Integrated Whole-Genome Analysis of Hematologic Disorders Recruiting

    To identify mutations, changes in DNA copy number, structural rearrangements, or altered microRNA/mRNA expression that are important for the initiation, progression, or treatment response of hematologic disorders.

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Publications

Journal Articles


  • Clinical interpretation and implications of whole-genome sequencing. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association Dewey, F. E., Grove, M. E., Pan, C., Goldstein, B. A., Bernstein, J. A., Chaib, H., Merker, J. D., Goldfeder, R. L., Enns, G. M., David, S. P., Pakdaman, N., Ormond, K. E., Caleshu, C., Kingham, K., Klein, T. E., Whirl-Carrillo, M., Sakamoto, K., Wheeler, M. T., Butte, A. J., Ford, J. M., Boxer, L., Ioannidis, J. P., Yeung, A. C., Altman, R. B., Assimes, T. L., Snyder, M., Ashley, E. A., Quertermous, T. 2014; 311 (10): 1035-1045

    Abstract

    Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) is increasingly applied in clinical medicine and is expected to uncover clinically significant findings regardless of sequencing indication.To examine coverage and concordance of clinically relevant genetic variation provided by WGS technologies; to quantitate inherited disease risk and pharmacogenomic findings in WGS data and resources required for their discovery and interpretation; and to evaluate clinical action prompted by WGS findings.An exploratory study of 12 adult participants recruited at Stanford University Medical Center who underwent WGS between November 2011 and March 2012. A multidisciplinary team reviewed all potentially reportable genetic findings. Five physicians proposed initial clinical follow-up based on the genetic findings.Genome coverage and sequencing platform concordance in different categories of genetic disease risk, person-hours spent curating candidate disease-risk variants, interpretation agreement between trained curators and disease genetics databases, burden of inherited disease risk and pharmacogenomic findings, and burden and interrater agreement of proposed clinical follow-up.Depending on sequencing platform, 10% to 19% of inherited disease genes were not covered to accepted standards for single nucleotide variant discovery. Genotype concordance was high for previously described single nucleotide genetic variants (99%-100%) but low for small insertion/deletion variants (53%-59%). Curation of 90 to 127 genetic variants in each participant required a median of 54 minutes (range, 5-223 minutes) per genetic variant, resulted in moderate classification agreement between professionals (Gross κ, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.40-0.64), and reclassified 69% of genetic variants cataloged as disease causing in mutation databases to variants of uncertain or lesser significance. Two to 6 personal disease-risk findings were discovered in each participant, including 1 frameshift deletion in the BRCA1 gene implicated in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Physician review of sequencing findings prompted consideration of a median of 1 to 3 initial diagnostic tests and referrals per participant, with fair interrater agreement about the suitability of WGS findings for clinical follow-up (Fleiss κ, 0.24; P < 001).In this exploratory study of 12 volunteer adults, the use of WGS was associated with incomplete coverage of inherited disease genes, low reproducibility of detection of genetic variation with the highest potential clinical effects, and uncertainty about clinically reportable findings. In certain cases, WGS will identify clinically actionable genetic variants warranting early medical intervention. These issues should be considered when determining the role of WGS in clinical medicine.

    View details for DOI 10.1001/jama.2014.1717

    View details for PubMedID 24618965

  • Comprehensive whole-genome sequencing of an early-stage primary myelofibrosis patient defines low mutational burden and non-recurrent candidate genes. Haematologica Merker, J. D., Roskin, K. M., Ng, D., Pan, C., Fisk, D. G., King, J. J., Hoh, R., Stadler, M., Okumoto, L. M., Abidi, P., Hewitt, R., Jones, C. D., Gojenola, L., Clark, M. J., Zhang, B., Cherry, A. M., George, T. I., Snyder, M., Boyd, S. D., Zehnder, J. L., Fire, A. Z., Gotlib, J. 2013; 98 (11): 1689-1696

    Abstract

    In order to identify novel somatic mutations associated with classic BCR/ABL1-negative myeloproliferative neoplasms, we performed high-coverage genome sequencing of DNA from peripheral blood granulocytes and cultured skin fibroblasts from a patient with MPL W515K-positive primary myelofibrosis. The primary myelofibrosis genome had a low somatic mutation rate, consistent with that observed in similar hematopoietic tumor genomes. Interfacing of whole-genome DNA sequence data with RNA expression data identified three somatic mutations of potential functional significance: a nonsense mutation in CARD6, implicated in modulation of NF-kappaB activation; a 19-base pair deletion involving a potential regulatory region in the 5'-untranslated region of BRD2, implicated in transcriptional regulation and cell cycle control; and a non-synonymous point mutation in KIAA0355, an uncharacterized protein. Additional mutations in three genes (CAP2, SOX30, and MFRP) were also evident, albeit with no support for expression at the RNA level. Re-sequencing of these six genes in 178 patients with polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia, and myelofibrosis did not identify recurrent somatic mutations in these genes. Finally, we describe methods for reducing false-positive variant calls in the analysis of hematologic malignancies with a low somatic mutation rate. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT01108159).

    View details for DOI 10.3324/haematol.2013.092379

    View details for PubMedID 23872309

  • STAT3 mutations are frequent in CD30+ T-cell lymphomas and T-cell large granular lymphocytic leukemia. Leukemia Ohgami, R. S., Ma, L., Merker, J. D., Martinez, B., Zehnder, J. L., Arber, D. A. 2013; 27 (11): 2244-2247

    View details for DOI 10.1038/leu.2013.104

    View details for PubMedID 23563237

  • Feasibility of using microbeads with holographic barcodes to track DNA specimens in the clinical molecular laboratory. PeerJ Merker, J. D., O'Grady, N., Gojenola, L., Dao, M., Lenta, R., Yeakley, J. M., Schrijver, I. 2013; 1

    Abstract

    We demonstrate the feasibility of using glass microbeads with a holographic barcode identifier to track DNA specimens in the molecular pathology laboratory. These beads can be added to peripheral blood specimens and are carried through automated DNA extraction protocols that use magnetic glass particles. We found that an adequate number of microbeads are consistently carried over during genomic DNA extraction to allow specimen identification, that the beads do not interfere with the performance of several different molecular assays, and that the beads and genomic DNA remain stable when stored together under regular storage conditions in the molecular pathology laboratory. The beads function as an internal, easily readable specimen barcode. This approach may be useful for identifying DNA specimens and reducing errors associated with molecular laboratory testing.

    View details for DOI 10.7717/peerj.91

    View details for PubMedID 23862106

  • Next-generation sequencing in hematologic malignancies: what will be the dividends? Therapeutic advances in hematology Merker, J. D., Valouev, A., Gotlib, J. 2012; 3 (6): 333-339

    Abstract

    The application of high-throughput, massively parallel sequencing technologies to hematologic malignancies over the past several years has provided novel insights into disease initiation, progression, and response to therapy. Here, we describe how these new DNA sequencing technologies have been applied to hematolymphoid malignancies. With further improvements in the sequencing and analysis methods as well as integration of the resulting data with clinical information, we expect these technologies will facilitate more precise and tailored treatment for patients with hematologic neoplasms.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/2040620712458948

    View details for PubMedID 23606936

  • Novel mutations in the inhibitory adaptor protein LNK drive JAK-STAT signaling in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms BLOOD Oh, S. T., Simonds, E. F., Jones, C., Hale, M. B., Goltsev, Y., Gibbs, K. D., Merker, J. D., Zehnder, J. L., Nolan, G. P., Gotlib, J. 2010; 116 (6): 988-992

    Abstract

    Dysregulated Janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK-STAT) signaling due to activation of tyrosine kinases is a common feature of myeloid malignancies. Here we report the first human disease-related mutations in the adaptor protein LNK, a negative regulator of JAK-STAT signaling, in 2 patients with JAK2 V617F-negative myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). One patient exhibited a 5 base-pair deletion and missense mutation leading to a premature stop codon and loss of the pleckstrin homology (PH) and Src homology 2 (SH2) domains. A second patient had a missense mutation (E208Q) in the PH domain. BaF3-MPL cells transduced with these LNK mutants displayed augmented and sustained thrombopoietin-dependent growth and signaling. Primary samples from MPN patients bearing LNK mutations exhibited aberrant JAK-STAT activation, and cytokine-responsive CD34(+) early progenitors were abnormally abundant in both patients. These findings indicate that JAK-STAT activation due to loss of LNK negative feedback regulation is a novel mechanism of MPN pathogenesis.

    View details for DOI 10.1182/blood-2010-02-270108

    View details for Web of Science ID 000280881700021

    View details for PubMedID 20404132

  • Individual Variation in the Germline Ig Gene Repertoire Inferred from Variable Region Gene Rearrangements JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY Boyd, S. D., Gaeta, B. A., Jackson, K. J., Fire, A. Z., Marshall, E. L., Merker, J. D., Maniar, J. M., Zhang, L. N., Sahaf, B., Jones, C. D., Simen, B. B., Hanczaruk, B., Nguyen, K. D., Nadeau, K. C., Egholm, M., Miklos, D. B., Zehnder, J. L., Collins, A. M. 2010; 184 (12): 6986-6992

    Abstract

    Individual variation in the Ig germline gene repertoire leads to individual differences in the combinatorial diversity of the Ab repertoire, but the study of such variation has been problematic. The application of high-throughput DNA sequencing to the study of rearranged Ig genes now makes this possible. The sequencing of thousands of VDJ rearrangements from an individual, either from genomic DNA or expressed mRNA, should allow their germline IGHV, IGHD, and IGHJ repertoires to be inferred. In addition, where previously mere glimpses of diversity could be gained from sequencing studies, new large data sets should allow the rearrangement frequency of different genes and alleles to be seen with clarity. We analyzed the DNA of 108,210 human IgH chain rearrangements from 12 individuals and determined their individual IGH genotypes. The number of reportedly functional IGHV genes and allelic variants ranged from 45 to 60, principally because of variable levels of gene heterozygosity, and included 14 previously unreported IGHV polymorphisms. New polymorphisms of the IGHD3-16 and IGHJ6 genes were also seen. At heterozygous loci, remarkably different rearrangement frequencies were seen for the various IGHV alleles, and these frequencies were consistent between individuals. The specific alleles that make up an individual's Ig genotype may therefore be critical in shaping the combinatorial repertoire. The extent of genotypic variation between individuals is highlighted by an individual with aplastic anemia who appears to lack six contiguous IGHD genes on both chromosomes. These deletions significantly alter the potential expressed IGH repertoire, and possibly immune function, in this individual.

    View details for DOI 10.4049/jimmunol.1000445

    View details for Web of Science ID 000278516700047

    View details for PubMedID 20495067

  • Design and Evaluation of a Real-Time PCR Assay for Quantification of JAK2 V617F and Wild-Type JAK2 Transcript Levels in the Clinical Laboratory JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR DIAGNOSTICS Merker, J. D., Jones, C. D., Oh, S. T., Schrijver, I., Gotlib, J., Zehnder, J. L. 2010; 12 (1): 58-64

    Abstract

    The somatic mutation JAK2 V617F is associated with BCR-ABL1-negative myeloproliferative neoplasms. Detection of this mutation aids diagnosis of these neoplasms, and quantification of JAK2 V617F may provide a method to monitor response to therapy. For these reasons, we designed a clinical assay that uses allele-specific PCR and real-time detection with hydrolysis probes for the quantification of JAK2 V617F, wild-type JAK2, and GAPDH transcripts. Mutant and wild-type JAK2 were quantified by using external plasmid standards that contain the relevant JAK2 V617F or JAK2 sequence, respectively. We tested 55 peripheral blood specimens from patients with suspected myeloproliferative neoplasms and 55 peripheral blood specimens from patients not known to have myeloproliferative neoplasms. Low-level, nonspecific amplification was detected in reactions containing a high copy number of plasmid standards and in specimens from patients not known to have myeloproliferative neoplasms, necessitating the use of a laboratory-established mutant to wild-type cutoff. The limit of detection established by using cell line dilutions is 0.1%, and this method identified three JAK2 V617F-positive patients who were not detected by a less sensitive method. The assay characteristics and our initial evaluation indicate this method can be used for the detection and quantification of JAK2 V617F, which should be useful for diagnosis of myeloproliferative neoplasms and potentially for monitoring minimal residual disease in future trials of therapies targeted to myeloproliferative neoplasms.

    View details for DOI 10.2353/jmoldx.2010.090068

    View details for Web of Science ID 000273664100009

    View details for PubMedID 19959796

  • Measurement and Clinical Monitoring of Human Lymphocyte Clonality by Massively Parallel V-D-J Pyrosequencing SCIENCE TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE Boyd, S. D., Marshall, E. L., Merker, J. D., Maniar, J. M., Zhang, L. N., Sahaf, B., Jones, C. D., Simen, B. B., Hanczaruk, B., Nguyen, K. D., Nadeau, K. C., Egholm, M., Miklos, D. B., Zehnder, J. L., Fire, A. Z. 2009; 1 (12)

    Abstract

    The complex repertoire of immune receptors generated by B and T cells enables recognition of diverse threats to the host organism. In this work, we show that massively parallel DNA sequencing of rearranged immune receptor loci can provide direct detection and tracking of immune diversity and expanded clonal lymphocyte populations in physiological and pathological contexts. DNA was isolated from blood and tissue samples, a series of redundant primers was used to amplify diverse DNA rearrangements, and the resulting mixtures of barcoded amplicons were sequenced using long-read ultra deep sequencing. Individual DNA molecules were then characterized on the basis of DNA segments that had been joined to make a functional (or nonfunctional) immune effector. Current experimental designs can accommodate up to 150 samples in a single sequence run, with the depth of sequencing sufficient to identify stable and dynamic aspects of the immune repertoire in both normal and diseased circumstances. These data provide a high-resolution picture of immune spectra in normal individuals and in patients with hematological malignancies, illuminating, in the latter case, both the initial behavior of clonal tumor populations and the later suppression or re-emergence of such populations after treatment.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/scitranslmed.3000540

    View details for Web of Science ID 000277263200001

    View details for PubMedID 20161664

  • Growth of Histoplasma capsulatum isolates is better on potato dextrose agar with chloramphenicol than on brain heart infusion agar JOURNAL DE MYCOLOGIE MEDICALE Burtelow, M. A., Merker, J. D., Baron, E. J. 2009; 19 (3): 197-199
  • Clinical characterization of acute myeloid leukemia with myelodysplasia-related changes as defined by the 2008 WHO classification system BLOOD Weinberg, O. K., Seetharam, M., Ren, L., Seo, K., Ma, L., Merker, J. D., Gotlib, J., Zehnder, J. L., Arber, D. A. 2009; 113 (9): 1906-1908

    Abstract

    Although some studies have validated the 2001 World Health Organization (WHO) classification of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), including the importance of multilineage dysplasia, others have suggested that multilineage dysplasia correlates with unfavorable cytogenetics but has no independent impact on prognosis. In 2008, the revised WHO classification has expanded this category into "AML with myelodysplasia-related changes" (AML-MRC). We evaluated the clinical, pathologic, cytogenetic, and molecular features of 100 AML patients using the 2008 WHO criteria. Patients underwent genetic screening for NPM1, FLT3-ITD, FLT3-D835, and CEBPA mutations. Compared with patients with AML, not otherwise specified, patients with AML-MRC were significantly older (P= .014), presented with a lower hemoglobin (P= .044), more frequently expressed CD14 (P= .048), and exhibited a decreased frequency of CEBPA mutations (P= .001). Multivariate analysis indicated that patients with AML-MRC had a significantly worse overall survival, progression-free survival, and complete response compared with AML-not otherwise specified (all P< .001). These data support the clinical, morphologic, and cytogenetic criteria for this 2008 WHO AML category.

    View details for DOI 10.1182/blood-2008-10-182782

    View details for Web of Science ID 000263723700007

    View details for PubMedID 19131546

  • Cold agglutinin syndrome in pediatric liver transplant recipients PEDIATRIC TRANSPLANTATION Wong, W., Merker, J. D., Nguyen, C., Berquist, W., Jeng, M., Viele, M., Glader, B., Fontaine, M. J. 2007; 11 (8): 931-936

    Abstract

    Anemia is a common finding in post-liver transplant patients. Causes for the anemia include nutritional deficiencies, red cell aplasia as well as immune-mediated hemolysis. One of the immunologic causes of hemolytic anemia is drug-induced hemolysis. Tacrolimus is a common immunosuppressant used in post-liver transplant patients to prevent graft rejection. There have been reports of tacrolimus-associated hemolytic anemia secondary to hemolytic uremic syndrome as well as autoimmune hemolysis. There are also case-reports of severe hemolytic anemia related to cold agglutinin production in post-liver transplant patients. We described in this paper three cases of severe cold agglutinin hemolytic anemia in three pediatric liver transplant patients. Steroid therapy, plasmapheresis and withdrawal of tacrolimus led to resolution of the severe hemolytic process in each case. Whether the immune-mediated hemolysis is related to tacrolimus is not clear and needs to be characterized further.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1399-3046.2007.00795.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000250520100016

    View details for PubMedID 17976131

  • Molecular diagnostics of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Expert opinion on medical diagnostics Merker, J. D., Arber, D. A. 2007; 1 (1): 47-63

    Abstract

    Non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs) represent a diverse group of hematopoietic neoplasms. Morphology and immunophenotypic characterization are the cornerstone of the diagnosis and classification of NHLs; however, cytogenetic and molecular studies are being increasingly used to provide further information about classification and prognosis. In addition, these molecular techniques are being used for the detection of minimal residual or recurrent disease after the patient has undergone treatment. This review will discuss the major genetic changes associated with NHLs and describe the methods currently used in the clinical laboratory for cytogenetic and molecular detection of these abnormalities.

    View details for DOI 10.1517/17530059.1.1.47

    View details for PubMedID 23489268

  • Diagnosis of a critical respiratory illness caused by human metapneumovirus by use of a pan-virus microarray JOURNAL OF CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGY Chiu, C. Y., Alizadeh, A. A., Rouskin, S., Merker, J. D., Yeh, E., Yagi, S., Schnurr, D., Patterson, B. K., Ganem, D., DeRisi, J. L. 2007; 45 (7): 2340-2343

    Abstract

    A pan-virus DNA microarray (Virochip) was used to detect a human metapneumovirus (hMPV) strain associated with a critical respiratory tract infection in an elderly adult with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This infection had previously eluded diagnosis despite extensive microbiological testing for possible etiologic agents. The patient's hMPV strain did not grow in viral culture, and only one of five specific reverse transcription-PCR assays for hMPV was positive.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/JCM.00364-07

    View details for Web of Science ID 000248072900050

    View details for PubMedID 17494722

  • Microarray detection of human parainfluenzavirus 4 infection associated with respiratory failure in an immunocompetent adult CLINICAL INFECTIOUS DISEASES Chiu, C. Y., Rouskin, S., Koshy, A., Urisman, A., Fischer, K., Yagi, S., Schnurr, D., Eckburg, P. B., Tompkins, L. S., Blackburn, B. G., Merker, J. D., Patterson, B. K., Ganem, D., DeRisi, J. L. 2006; 43 (8): E71-E76

    Abstract

    A pan-viral DNA microarray, the Virochip (University of California, San Francisco), was used to detect human parainfluenzavirus 4 (HPIV-4) infection in an immunocompetent adult presenting with a life-threatening acute respiratory illness. The virus was identified in an endotracheal aspirate specimen, and the microarray results were confirmed by specific polymerase chain reaction and serological analysis for HPIV-4. Conventional clinical laboratory testing using an extensive panel of microbiological tests failed to yield a diagnosis. This case suggests that the potential severity of disease caused by HPIV-4 in adults may be greater than previously appreciated and illustrates the clinical utility of a microarray for broad-based viral pathogen screening.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000240666200029

    View details for PubMedID 16983602

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