Mutations in Genes of Leukemia Patients Might Suggest Treatment Success with Use of a Milder Chemotherapy
Contrary to popular belief, some more lethal forms of leukemia might benefit from milder chemotherapy if the patient has a specific genetic profile. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine recently published a study on a potential new acute myeloid leukemia (AML) treatment in The New England Journal of Medicine.
What is the new treatment?
Doctors usually treat AML with aggressive chemotherapy, but — even with this intensive treatment — patients typically only live for four to six months after diagnosis.
Looking for a better treatment to give these patients a higher chance of long-term survival, the researchers looked at the milder chemotherapy drug decitabine. This drug is not a cure, but when researchers gave it to patients with leukemia cells that carried a mutated TP53 gene, the drug produced substantial improvement.
Patients with this mutated cancer gene were able to achieve remission in those cells, prolonging their life for an average of one year.
Prior to this discovery, genetic profiling of AML patients correlated mutations of the TP53 gene with a poor prognosis. However, after discovering the impact decitabine had on these unique genetic makeups, doctors are now looking at a new protocol for genetic screening and altering treatment plans to better suit the patient’s genetics.
Before they can make changes to the common course of AML treatment, researchers need to replicate the findings in a larger scale trial. The hope is that with the improved gene-based treatment plans, more AML patients can achieve remission, which allows doctors to use other strategies to hopefully develop a cure.
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