Acute Myeloid Leukemia Study Supports Knowledge Bank Approach to Personalized Therapy in Cancer

An international collaboration led by clinical researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has shown proof-of-concept that truly personalized therapy will be possible in the future for people with cancer. Details of how a knowledge bank could be used to find the best treatment option for people with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) were published online on January 16, 2017 in Nature Genetics. The article is titled “Precision Oncology for Acute Myeloid Leukemia Using a Knowledge Bank Approach.” AML is an aggressive blood cancer that develops in bone marrow cells. Earlier this year, the team reported that there are eleven types of AML, each with distinct genetic features. Now they report how a patient's individual genetic details can be incorporated into predicting the outcome and treatment choice for that patient. The scientists built a knowledge bank using data from 1,540 patients with AML who participated in clinical trials in Germany and Austria, combining information on genetic features, treatment schedule, and outcome for each person. From this, the team developed a tool that shows how the experience captured in the knowledge bank could be used to provide personalized information about the best treatment options for a new patient. There are two major treatment options for young patients with AML - a stem cell transplant or chemotherapy. Stem cell transplants cure more patients overall, but up to one in four people die from complications of the transplant and a further one in four experience long-term side effects. Weighing up the benefits of better cure rates with transplant against the risks of worse early mortality is a harrowing decision for patients and their clinicians. The team showed that these benefits and risks could be accurately calculated for an individual patient, enabling therapeutic choices to become personalized.
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