Patients who’ve been successfully treated for breast, colon and other cancers can go on to develop an often-fatal form of leukemia, sometimes years after completion of treatment, due to a genetic mutation leading to secondary malignancies known as therapy-related myeloid neoplasms (t-MNs).
A study conducted by researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center revealed pre-leukemic mutations, called clonal hematopoiesis, may predict whether patients develop t-MNs. Clonal hematopoiesis appears to function as a biomarker for patients who develop t-MNs, a leukemia recognized for its extremely poor prognosis. The study findings were published in The Lancet Oncology and presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Diego.
“Therapy-related myeloid neoplasms occur in about five percent of cancer patients who were treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy,” said Andy Futreal, Ph.D., chair of Genomic Medicine. “In most cases, it is fatal, and currently there is no way to predict who is at risk or prevent it.”
Being able to detect t-MNs earlier is crucial given that the disease usually occurs three to eight years following chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Futreal’s team studied 14 patients with t-MNs and found traces of pre-leukemic mutations or clonal hematopoiesis in 10. To determine if pre-leukemic mutations could reliably predict whether the patients would develop leukemia, the researchers compared prevalence of pre-leukemic mutations in the 14 patients with 54 patients who did not develop t-MNs after therapy.
“We found that prevalence of pre-leukemic mutations was significantly higher in patients who developed t-MNs (71 percent) versus those who did not (26 percent),” said Futreal. “We also validated these findings in a separate cohort of patients. Based on these findings, we believe pre-leukemic mutations may function as a new biomarker that would predict t-MNs development.”
Read more about this study in the MD Anderson Newsroom.