Genetic alterations help guide treatment of a high-risk leukemia

Memphis, Tennessee, January 23, 2017

Tanja A. Gruber, MD, PhD, with patient

Tanja A. Gruber, MD, PhD, an associate member of the Oncology Department, with a St. Jude patient diagnosed with Acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKL).

Some children with leukemia still face long odds of being cured. In fact, survival rates are only 14-34% for certain children with a high-risk form called acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKL).

Researchers recently found three genetic changes that can help identify AMKL patients most likely to benefit from blood stem cell transplants. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital led the international effort.

The study was the largest yet to search the human genome for genetic changes that cause AMKL. The study included 89 AMKL patients without Down syndrome who were treated at medical centers in the U.S., Europe and Asia.                                  

Based on the findings, researchers suggest testing all new pediatric AMKL patients for these genetic changes. St. Jude has adopted the recommendations.

“These genetic alterations will improve tailored therapy by helping us better identify which patients need to undergo allogeneic stem cell transplant in first remission and which do not,” said Tanja Gruber, MD, PhD, of the St. Jude Department of Oncology.

The research appeared in the scientific journal Nature Genetics.

Read the news release.

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