Through a groundbreaking new gene sequencing technology, researchers have demonstrated that the gene FLT3 is a valid therapeutic target in acute myeloid leukemia, AML, one of the most common types of leukemia. The technique, developed by Pacific Biosciences, allows for the rapid and comprehensive detection of gene mutations in patients with AML. The findings, published online on April 15, 2012 in Nature, are a result of collaboration among scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, Pacific Biosciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and other institutions. The discovery may help lead to the development of new drugs to treat AML. "By sequencing the FLT3 gene in AML patients who have relapsed on therapy targeted against FLT3, we have determined that FLT3 is a valid therapeutic target, and this will certainly help us better understand the physiology of this type of leukemia in order to help us develop new therapies in the future," said Andrew Kasarskis, Ph.D., who performed the research with colleagues at Pacific Biosciences prior to becoming Vice Chair of the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "In addition, sequencing hundreds of single molecules of FLT3 allowed us to see drug resistance mutations at low frequency. This increased ability to see resistance will let us identify the problem of the resistance sooner in a patient's clinical course and help us take steps to address it." Historically, DNA sequencing of individual molecules in a mixture has been difficult and time-consuming to achieve. However, Pacific Biosciences' single-molecule real-time sequencer, the PacBio® RS, identified mutations in the sequence reads obtained in a single run even at low levels, on the order of 1 to 3 percent of total sequence reads.
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