An international team of researchers has established that patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) suffer genetic changes in their blood several years prior to developing the condition, a discovery that will make it easier to pinpoint people at high risk for developing this form of cancer. The findings of this study, issued in the journal Nature, suggest that it is theoretically feasible to determine the disease’s origin five years in advance of its development.
AML (acute myeloid leukemia) is an invasive hematologic malignancy that occurs in people of all ages; cancer cells multiply quickly in the bone marrow and disrupt the normal proliferation of blood cells, resulting in deadly infections and hemorrhages. Traditional treatments have made very little difference over the past several decades and, while some patients are healed, most fail to do so. About 5 out of every 100,000 people develop AML, annually.
Specific genetic mutations in blood cells could be a sign of acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute (UK) and the European Institute of Bioinformatics, together with scientists from CIBERESP, the University of Toronto and the Weizmann Institute in Israel, have demonstrated that blood tests that study alterations in the DNA code can uncover the AML in healthy people.
“The aim is to build on these findings to achieve robust screening tests to identify those at risk and to advance research on how to prevent or halt the progression to acute myeloid leukemia. We hope that one day, prevention will provide a compelling alternative to treatment,” concludes Moritz Gerstung from the European Institute of Bioinformatics.
The research looked at the genes that are known to be linked to the disease. The study revealed that individuals who have acute myeloid leukemia in its early stages of development have a higher percentage of genetic mutations which are frequently present in the blood cells.