Researchers Identify 11 Different Subtypes of Acute Myeloid Leukemia

In an analysis of more than 100 genes known to cause acute myeloid leukemia (AML), researchers from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Britain’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have identified 11 different subtypes of AML. The research suggests that AML is not one disorder, but many, and could change the way patients are diagnosed and the ways drugs are developed.

“For the first time, we untangled the genetic complexity seen in most AML cancer genomes into distinct evolutionary paths,” said first author of the study, Elli Papaemmanuil, PhD, from the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

The study – published in the New England Journal of Medicine – analyzed 1,540 AML patients, including more than 100 genes known to cause leukemia in an effort to seek out common genetic themes related to the development of the disease. They found that patients could be categorized into at least 11 major groups, each with genetic changes and distinctive clinical features. The researchers also found that most patients had a unique combination of genetic changes, which explains why AML patients have such variable survival rates, they wrote.

Source: Papaemmanuil E, Gerstung M, Bullinger L, et al. Genomic classification and prognosis in acute myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med. 2016 June 15. [Epub ahead of print]