Genetic secrets yield treatment clues

Memphis, Tennessee, March 29, 2019

Charles Mullighan, MBBS, MD, pictured with first author Ilaria Iacobucci, Ph.D.

Charles Mullighan, MBBS, MD, of St. Jude Pathology, pictured with first author Ilaria Iacobucci, PhD

Curing cancer is tough, especially when the diagnosis is uncertain.

For almost 100 years, specialists have tried to figure out how to define acute erythroid leukemia (AEL). There are no clear treatment guidelines for this disease. Sadly, there are few survivors.

St. Jude scientists recently led the largest and most complete effort yet to find the genetic basis of AEL in children and adults. Researchers from around the world joined the effort. The scientists found five age-related subgroups of AEL. Each has distinct genetic alterations and patterns of gene expression.

The work also revealed promising treatments and mutations to target.

“These results mark a new era in understanding and this aggressive leukemia,” said Charles Mullighan, MBBS, MD, of St. Jude Pathology.

A report on this work appeared in Nature Genetics.

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