Gene chips help gauge chemotherapy's effectiveness in adult leukemia patients

BOSTON Taking a "snapshot" of gene activity can help doctors to determine which adult leukemia patients are likely to benefit from therapy and how long their remission is likely to last, researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University "La Sapienza" in Rome have found.

In a study to be published in the April 1 issue of Blood, researchers used "gene expression analysis" to measure the degree of activity of thousands of genes in 33 patients who had recently been diagnosed with adult T cell acute lymphocytic leukemia (T-ALL), a disease caused by the overproduction of immune cells known as T lymphocytes.

"The present study investigates, for the first time, the identification of gene expression profiles associated with both short-term and long-term outcome in adult patients with T-ALL," says Jerome Ritz, MD, of Dana-Farber, who served as senior author of the study with Robin Foa, MD, of the University "La Sapienza." "While approximately 70 percent of pediatric patients with T-ALL have excellent long-term response to intensive chemotherapy, adult patients have a much less favorable outcome. Previously, this poor prognosis of adult T-ALL patients had not been attributed to specific genetic events."

Sabina Chiaretti, MD, a research fellow at Dana-Farber, is the paper's first author.

Using microarray technology, investigators compared gene activity levels in patients who improved with chemotherapy to those who did not. The researchers identified a single gene, IL-8, that was unusually active or "highly expressed" in T-ALL cells from patients whose condition was resistant to chemotherapy.

They also found a group of 30 genes that were highly expressed in leukemic cells from patients who had complete remissions of the disease. By measuring the expression levels of three of those genes AHNAK, TTK, and CD2 researchers were able to correctly predict the duration of remission in 71 percent of the cases. Using the genes'


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