Led by Professor David Grimwade from King’s College London, researchers across Guy’s and St Thomas’ looked at a specific genetic fault that affects around a third of patients with AML. They designed an incredibly sensitive test that was able to pick up trace levels of faults in the NPM1 gene, and could tell doctors if the blood cancer had been treated effectively by chemotherapy, or if it was likely to come back.
This test has been moved very quickly into the pathology services at King’s College, and is now available to patients with this particular AML across the UK. Doctors can now more accurately monitor response to treatment, and identify those patients for whom chemotherapy alone is not sufficient even before physical signs reappear. These patients can then consider stem cell transplantation or new treatments.
Identifying people who can benefit from a stem cell transplant accurately and as early as possible gives them the best chance of success. It can also protect some people who don’t need a transplant from an unnecessary and very gruelling treatment.
A similar test, also developed by researchers supported by Bloodwise, revolutionised treatment for the most common form of childhood leukaemia, but this is the first time it has been used for AML.
Research to improve the treatment for people who are affected by AML is really important as current treatment is very demanding and survival rates are not good enough. And although this test is changing lives right now, there is still more we can do for patients living with AML by developing better, kinder treatments.
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