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Scientists Decode Genome Of Cancer Patient

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, November 05, 2008 8:55 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Leukemia, Cancer, AML, Women's Health, DNA

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IMAGE SOURCE:© Wikimedia Commons/ AML - Acute Myeloid Leukemia / author: Patho

For the first time, scientists have decoded the entire genome of a cancer patient and found a set of mutations that might have caused the disease or aided its progression.

Researchers used cells donated by a woman in her 50s who died less than two years after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). They were able to sequence the genes in a sample of normal skin tissue and also from the tumor cells extracted from her bone marrow.

Only one in five patients that get this disease will live more than five years after diagnosis.

When comparing normal tissue to cancerous tissue, researchers discovered 10 mutated genes in the cancerous tissue that appear to be AML triggers. Previous studies have associated two of the ten genes with AML, the other eight were unexpected.

“They are all new. They are all in genes that we did not have on our radar when studying this specific cancer type. In hindsight, they make sense,” said Dr. Timothy J. Ley, M.D., study author.

Three usually act to suppress tumor growth, four are involved in cell growth and the last one affects how drugs enter a cell, researchers said.

Only one in five patients that get this disease will live more than five years after diagnosis.

The findings won’t immediately offer help for patients, but they could lead to new therapies and would most definitely help doctors to make better choices among existing treatment options based on a more detailed genetic picture of each patient’s cancer.

While the research for this study focuses on leukemia, the same techniques can be used to study other cancers.

AML treatment has not been improved in nearly two decades, largely because genetic factors for the disease remain unknown.

Adult AML is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. This type of cancer usually progresses quickly if untreated. It is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults.

An estimated 44,270 new cases of leukemia will be diagnosed in the United States in 2008. Approximately 13,290 of them will be AML. And an estimated 8,820 adults will die from AML in 2008.

Researchers are hopeful that the newly discovered genes will give them more ways to attack cancer in the future. The study is reported in the November 6 issue of the Journal Nature. #


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