NOV 25, 2016 8:49 AM PST

Mutation in Cancer Gene Predicts Treatment Response in Leukemia

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
A chemotherapy drug that’s comparably milder than other drugs has been found to extend survival for acute myeloid leukemia patients. But the caveat, researchers say, is knowing which patient has the right genetic profile that will respond favorably to this drug.
 
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is cancer of the blood cells in the bone marrow. This type of cancer is highly lethal, with death rates expected to exceed 50 percent in the 20,000 people who will be diagnosed this year.
 
While the drug decitabine is considered less intense than other chemotherapy drugs, researchers noticed that some AML patients appear to respond well to decitabine. To find out why this may be the case, researchers sequenced the genetic profile of 116 AML patients. They found that those who tended to respond to decitabine also have a mutation in the cancer gene known as TP53.
 
"What's really unique here is that all the patients in the study with TP53 mutations had a response to decitabine and achieved an initial remission," said Timothy Ley, the study’s senior author. TP53 mutations are traditionally associated with poor outcome and high lethality. "With standard aggressive chemotherapy, we only see about 20 to 30 percent of these patients achieving remission, which is the critical first step to have a chance to cure patients with additional therapies.
 
It is not known exactly how a mild chemotherapy drug paradoxically works in AML cases that bear aggressive mutations in TP53. "The findings need to be validated in a larger trial," said Ley, "but they do suggest that TP53 mutations can reliably predict responses to decitabine, potentially prolonging survival in this ultra high-risk group of patients and providing a bridge to transplantation in some patients who might not otherwise be candidates."
 

Of note, decitabine is not a cure for AML. "Remissions with decitabine typically don't last long, and no one was cured with this drug," Ley explained. "But patients who responded to decitabine live longer than what you would expect with aggressive chemotherapy, and that can mean something. Some people live a year or two and with a good quality of life, because the chemotherapy is not too toxic."
 
The results of the study point to a subpopulation of AML patients who are most likely to reap benefits from decitabine. "We're now planning a larger trial to evaluate decitabine in AML patients of all ages who carry TP53 mutations," said John Welch, the study’s first author. "It's exciting to think we may have a therapy that has the potential to improve response rates in this group of high-risk patients."

Additional sources: Washington University School of Medicine via MNT
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 07, 2020
Cancer
Identifying Robust Tumor Features for Better Radiomics
SEP 07, 2020
Identifying Robust Tumor Features for Better Radiomics
With the advancement of technology comes the renovation of classical medical techniques. Diagnostic is one of the areas ...
SEP 14, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Why Defects in One Gene Can Lead to Cancer in Kids
SEP 14, 2020
Why Defects in One Gene Can Lead to Cancer in Kids
While they may occur in adults, a rare, aggressive type of brain cancer called atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumors tend to ...
OCT 14, 2020
Cancer
Research suggests statins could reduce the risk of cancer
OCT 14, 2020
Research suggests statins could reduce the risk of cancer
New research published in the journal eLife provides evidence that statins, the common cholesterol-lowering drugs, could ...
OCT 23, 2020
Cancer
#BCSM helps physicians understand patients' needs outside the clinical setting
OCT 23, 2020
#BCSM helps physicians understand patients' needs outside the clinical setting
A new study from UCLA published in the Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Review suggests that social media can be ...
NOV 03, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
One Eight Cancer Patients Also Carry Inherited Genetic Mutations
NOV 03, 2020
One Eight Cancer Patients Also Carry Inherited Genetic Mutations
Genetic sequencing technologies have rapidly advanced, reducing the time required to sequence the entire human genome fr ...
NOV 05, 2020
Immunology
Awakening Ancient DNA to Kill Cancer
NOV 05, 2020
Awakening Ancient DNA to Kill Cancer
In a recent study published in Nature, scientists from the University of Toronto described the discovery of ancient DNA ...
Loading Comments...