New Gene Alteration Find Points To Aggressive Leukemia Treatment

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers looking at a group of leukemia patients have found that a genetic defect they discovered two years ago serves as an early warning signal, calling for a speed-up in these patients’ treatment.

The defect is a duplication of a small part of the ALL1 gene. Patients who have this alteration fall out of remission three times faster than those who don’t and their survival is slightly more than half that of patients who don’t have the defect.

The scientists reported their discovery in the journal Cancer Research.

The gene defect appears in patients suffering from acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer that afflicts about one in 100,000 people. The disease increases as the population ages and the prognosis of patients with the disease worsens with age. Perhaps 40 percent of those with AML can be cured using appropriate therapies. Without treatment, AML can kill in a few months.

“This is one of only a few instances where we’ve cloned a gene and then figured out what it means in terms of an individual patient’s disease. What’s more, this gene defect is a sign of a poor prognosis. Finding it allows us to better plan a patient’s treatment,” explained Michael Caligiuri, co-director of the division of hematology and oncology and associate director for clinical cancer research for Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. The study was led by Caligiuri and Dr. Clara Bloomfield, director of the CCC and of the division of hematology and oncology.

In approximately 55 percent of the cases of AML, the patient’s chromosomes show distinctive changes that can be linked to the disease. In the remaining 45 percent however, the patients show normal cytogenetics -- that is, there are no obvious chromosomal changes.

This particular defect appears in patients who have normal cytogenetics, Caligiuri said. That is

Contact: Michael Caligiuri
(614) 293-7521
Ohio State University

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