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Leukemia: Genetic “Map” Helps Clinicians Treat Patients

Leukemia cells.

With unknown risk factors and a varied response to treatment, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) can be a difficult cancer to treat. In order to improve the understanding of this disease, researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center created the AML Proteome Atlas, a database derived from MetaGalaxy analyses that contains the proteomic profiling of 205 patients with AML and 111 leukemic cell lines.

"Acute myelogenous leukemia presents as a cancer so heterogeneous that it is often described as not one, but a collection of diseases," commented one of the study authors, Amina Qutub, PhD, Associate Professor in the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering. "To decipher the clues found in proteins from blood and bone marrow of leukemia patients, we developed a new computer analysis—MetaGalaxy—that identifies molecular hallmarks of leukemia. These hallmarks are analogous to the way constellations guide navigation of the stars: they provide a map to protein changes for leukemia. Our 'hallmark' predictions are being experimentally tested through drug screens and can be 'programmed' into cells through synthetic manipulation of proteins.

By using the AML Proteome Atlas, the researchers were able to identify 154 functional patterns based on common molecular pathways, 11 constellations of correlated functional patterns, and 13 signatures that stratify the outcomes of patients. MetaGalaxy technology was developed in order to categorize the protein signatures into patterns based on distinctive cellular functions and pathways. This wealth of information will help clinicians to make more informed decisions regarding effective treatment for their patients with AML. The study results are published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

"A next step to bring this work to the clinic and impact patient care is testing whether these signatures lead to the aggressive growth or resistance to chemotherapy observed in leukemia patients," stated Dr. Qutub. "At the same time, to rapidly accelerate research in leukemia and advance the hunt for treatments, we provide the hallmarks in an online compendium where fellow researchers and oncologists worldwide can build from the resource, tools, and findings, LeukemiaAtlas.org."

For More Information

Hu CW, Qiu Y, Ligeralde A, et al (2019). A quantitative analysis of heterogeneities and hallmarks in acute myelogenous leukemia. Nat Biomed Eng. [Epub ahead of print] DOI:10.1038/s41551-019-0387-2

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons. Licensed Under CC BY 2.5

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