Dec 2016

New test helps tailor treatments for high-risk leukemia patients

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Researchers at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto have developed a test to predict responses to standard treatments in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) — one of the most deadly and common types of adult leukemia.

The test is designed to be administered in tandem with diagnosis so that once the marker is identified, an individual treatment plan can be prepared.

“Clinicians will now have a tool that they can use upfront to tailor treatment to risk in AML,” says Dr. Jean Wang, Affiliate Scientist at the Princess Margaret and Co-Principle Investigator of the study in a press release from the University Health Network.

The marker identifies a 17-gene signature derived from leukemia stem cells that are resistant to standard chemotherapy and cause relapse for patients. Based on a rigorous statistical approach, a “stemness score” measures a patient’s probability for chemo resistant cells. With this knowledge, clinicians will be able to enroll high-risk patients in clinical trials to test alternative therapies to chemotherapy alone.

The test not only provides a fast turnaround time for patients as they decide the best course of care, it also represents the first time a stem cell-based biomarker has been developed in this way for human cancer.

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