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Better prediction of course of acute leukemia

Erasmus MC researchers have found a way to better predict the course and severity of the disease in patients with acute myeloid leukemia.

The researchers have just published their findings in the leading scientific journal New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Next Generation SequencingAcute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults. It is very difficult to predict the course and the severity of the disease in individual patients. "However, this is important information that can be used to tailor therapy to a patient, and also to predict the likelihood of recurrence after treatment", says researcher Peter Valk, of Erasmus MC's department of Hematology.

DNA sequencing
Acute leukemia occurs because changes (mutations) take place in the DNA of the stem cells in the bone marrow. A patient with AML can have many different mutations. The changes are identified using DNA sequencing. Up until now, the detection of these genetic abnormalities was very time and labor intensive.

In this study, the researchers used a new DNA sequencing technology called Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). This method makes it possible to identify DNA abnormalities much faster. A single test can identify all the mutations that occur simultaneously in patients with leukemia. This test can be carried out not only as soon as the patient is diagnosed with leukemia, but also during therapy.

The researchers examined a large group of AML patients to determine which mutations remained after high-dose chemotherapy, and which of these mutations cause leukemia recurrence.  Valk says "In this way we can identify at an early stage the patients who did not benefit sufficiently from chemotherapy. This has a direct bearing on clinical practice in that the treatment can be adjusted, well before the leukemia recurs." 

See the press release.

Date published: 29 March 2018.

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