AML is an aggressive blood cancer. Approximately 900 new cases of AML will be diagnosed this year in Australia. Despite advances in treatment and patient care, fewer than half of these AML patients will be alive at 5 years after their diagnosis.
Researchers are hoping to improve outcomes for a common type of AML called core-binding factor AML by understanding why some patients are cured of their cancer and why for others, who received exactly the same treatment, their AML comes back or relapses.
Dr Chew said most people went into remission with therapy but for some patients the leukaemia relapses – an event that can happen anytime from a few months to a few years after treatment.
“At this point, no one knows why some patients respond successfully and others don’t. Our study is aiming to change that.
“If we can get to the bottom of what makes certain forms of this cancer so resistant to therapy, we will have the information needed to develop targeted treatments that can protect vulnerable patients from relapsing,” he said.
Advances in next generation sequencing (NGS) technology have made possible fast and comprehensive analysis of cancer samples.
Bioinformaticians Ms Anna Quagleri, Dr Christoffer Flensburg, and Professor Terry Speed are helping to make sense of data from individual tumours to identify key differences in their genetic code.
Dr Chew said the teams were looking for vital differences between the cancers that responded to treatment versus the tumours that did not.
“We are using NGS to analyse samples from 60 patients collected through the Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Our goal is to identify the genes that are influencing poor patient outcomes and making tumours resistant to therapy. We hope our findings will lead to new strategies and approaches for more successful treatment outcomes in the future for our patients,” he said.
The study is conducted in collaboration with research and clinical partners within the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. The Leukaemia Foundation of Australia supported the study through initial Grant-in-Aid funding and a Clinical PhD Scholarship to Dr Chew.
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