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Patients Treated for Cancer More Likely to Develop Highly Fatal Form of Leukemia

Dec 05, 2016 04:48 AM EST

A new study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center revealed that a genetic mutation could make patients formally treated for cancers likely develop an often-fatal form of leukemia years after being able to complete their cancer treatment.

The study, published in the journal Lancet Oncology, showed that a pre-leukemic mutation, known as clonal hematopoiesis, may predict the risk of secondary malignancies known as therapy-related myeloid neoplasms (t-MNs) in patients recovering from successful treatments for breast, colon and other types of cancer.

"Therapy-related myeloid neoplasms occur in about 5 percent of cancer patients who were treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy," said Andy Futreal, Ph.D., chair ad interim of Genomic Medicine and lead author of the study, in a press release. "In most cases, it is fatal, and currently there is no way to predict who is at risk or prevent it."

For the study, the researchers analyzed 14 patients with t-MNs. Out of those, traces of pre-leukemic mutations or clonal hematopoiesis were found in 10. By comparing the prevalence of clonal hematopoiesis in the 14 patients with 54 patients who did not develop t-MNs after therapy, the researchers was able found that the pre-leukemic mutations could reliably be used as biomarker for t-MNs.

The researchers discovered that about 71 percent of the patients who developed t-MNs have significantly higher clonal hematopoiesis, while only 26 percent of those who did not develop t-MNs have high pre-leukemic mutations.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the genetic mutations that were present in patients with t-MNs can also be found in blood samples that were collected during the time of their primary cancer diagnosis.

With their findings, the researchers recommend that use of the clonal hematopoiesis as a potential biomarker for identifying cancer patients that are at a higher risk of developing t-MNs after their treatments. The researchers noted that more studies are needed to develop a possible approaches of screening for the pre-leukemic mutations.

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