A better blueprint for leukemia, courtesy of cancer genome project

May 3, 2013 | by Nicole White

New DNA analyses of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) offer the best blueprint to date of the often fatal disease. Now, the challenge for physicians and scientists will be using those blueprints to build better treatments, said Ravi Bhatia, MD,  director of Hematopoietic Stem Cell and Leukemia Research at City of Hope.

 

New genome analysis offers best "blueprint" of acute myeloid leukemia, setting the stage for building new treatments. New genome analysis offers best "blueprint" of acute myeloid leukemia, setting the stage for building new treatments.

 

On Wednesday, the New England Journal of Medicine  published the blueprints as part of the National Institutes of Health’s Cancer Genome Atlas Project.

The project, which was started in 2005 to catalogue genetic mutations responsible for cancer, has published tumor genome information on breast, lung, colon, ovarian and brain cancers. An analysis of endometrial cancer DNA also was published the same day, in Nature.

 The leukemia study provides a data repository that will be publicly available to the medical community, including research institutions like City of Hope. The study analyzed the genomes of 200 adults with AML and identified nine subtypes for the disease. Future research could make use of the data to delve into these categories, study how specific mutations drive the disease and identify new treatments.

“This sets the stage for us to correlate these mutations with the kinds of responses patients might have to treatment,” said Bhatia, who was not involved in the study. “This large repository of data can be mined toward that goal.”

Because this study gives a clearer picture of AML at the DNA level, it’s the first step toward developing better and targeted treatments.

“DNA is the blueprint,” Bhatia said. “It’s the plan. It’s very important to know what the underlying mutation is, and what the changes in the gene sequence are – but they’re not likely to be the whole story. But it’s a first step on that pathway … We have a lot of information, but how we apply that to the patient is going to take a lot more work.”

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