The aim of this project is to use new genetic techniques to better determine whether malignant cells are still present after treatment for acute myeloid leukemia.
Acute myeloid leukemia is a blood cancer with a poor prognosis. This is partly due to the characteristics of the disease: the malignant cells differ greatly from each other, making it difficult to kill them all with one drug. When a drug works well and kills 99% of the cancer cells, the remaining 1% can grow again. But it is very difficult to detect that 1% residual disease demonstrably. This makes it seem as if the patient no longer has a disease.
The fact that the leukemia cells differ so much goes back to the molecular level: a large number of different errors (mutations) have accumulated in the DNA of these cells over time. Recent research by this research group has found that certain mutations can be predictive of disease recurrence. This knowledge can help identify patients who are at high risk of getting sick again.
Thanks to new genetic techniques, it is now possible to map the entire DNA of cancer cells. That is exactly what the researchers in this project want to do: detect the mutations that indicate that residual disease is still present in the blood.
How is this research conducted?
Years of collecting blood from leukemia patients has led to a unique biobank at Erasmus that allows researchers to get to know the disease much better. In this study, the scientists will read the DNA of leukemia cells from 1200 patients, in order to detect both common and rare mutations that contribute to the further course of the disease.
This research provides new knowledge about how to detect residual disease in patients, for which current techniques are not sensitive enough.
By identifying these patients at an early stage, it should be possible to detect the recurrence of the disease earlier and better treat it.