Chemical stem cell signature predicts treatment response for acute myeloid leukemia

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:

3-Feb-2014

Contact: Kim Newman sciencenews@einstein.yu.edu 718-430-3101 Albert Einstein College of Medicine

February 3, 2014 (Bronx, NY) Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center have found a chemical "signature" in blood-forming stem cells that predicts whether patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) will respond to chemotherapy.

The findings are based on data from nearly 700 AML patients. If validated in clinical trials, the signature would help physicians better identify which AML patients would benefit from chemotherapy and which patients have a prognosis so grave that they may be candidates for more aggressive treatments such as bone-marrow transplantation. The paper was published today in the online edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Sparing Patients from Debilitating Side Effects

According to the American Cancer Society, AML accounts for nearly one-third of all new leukemia cases each year. In 2013, more than 10,000 patients died of AML.

"AML is a disease in which fewer than 30 percent of patients are cured," said co-senior author Ulrich Steidl, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of cell biology and of medicine and the Diane and Arthur B. Belfer Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research at Einstein and associate chair for translational research in oncology at Montefiore. "Ideally, we would like to increase that cure rate. But in the meantime, it would help if we could identify who won't benefit from standard treatment, so we can spare them the debilitating effects of chemotherapy and get them into clinical trials for experimental therapies that might be more effective."

Analyzing Methylation Patterns

The Einstein study focused on so-called epigenetic "marks" chemical changes in DNA that turn genes on or off. The researchers focused on one common epigenetic process known as methylation, in which methyl (CH3) groups attach in various patterns to the genes of human cells. Researchers have known that aberrations in the methylation of hematopoietic, or blood-forming, stem cells (HSCs) can prevent them from differentiating into mature blood cells, leading to AML.

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Chemical stem cell signature predicts treatment response for acute myeloid leukemia

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