Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in young adults and a highly lethal disease in older adults. Most AML patients do not survive longer than two years after diagnosis, due to a lack of effective treatment options and inadequate molecular tools to monitor disease prognosis. Treating patients considered favourable (with chemotherapy) or adverse (stem cell transplant) is relatively straightforward. It is the patients who fall into the middle, intermediate, category who present the most problems.
In 2009, the team leads for this project, Drs. Guy Sauvageau (Université de Montréal) and Josée Hébert (Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont) launched the Leucegene project, today an international leader in deciphering the genetic abnormalities present in AML. Leucegene’s work has led to the imminent worldwide implementation of a new prognostic test, enabling physicians to predict responses to available AML therapies for patients. Nonetheless, physicians are not able to identify optimal treatment for fully
30 percent of AML patients.
This project’s goal is to reduce that number to less than 10 percent by using new, state-of-the-art genomic technologies to identify previously unknown genetic variants and to develop new prognostic tests based on this knowledge. The team will also identify key vulnerabilities in AML that can be targeted by existing drugs not currently used in AML treatments, enabling the identification of appropriate therapies for more patients.
Results from this research will be made available on a public web portal to facilitate further work by other researchers and make information available to patients and physicians. The team will create strict ethical and legal guidelines for the portal. It will also analyze the costs arising from the novel tests developed, compared to the costs saved and years of productivity gained through better AML treatment strategies.