Jun 30, 2017
By Jane Brown
Scientists at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto have put together the most convincing evidence yet, showing why a tenacious form of leukemia is prone to relapse and how the precise nature of the relapse can sometimes be predicted in advance.
The result provides new information on the biology underlying acute myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer that strikes roughly one in 10,000 Canadians and has a dismal long term survival rate of only 10 percent.
The research team began with a genetic analysis of tissue samples from 11 patients who had been diagnosed with AML and successfully treated with chemotherapy, but whose cancer later returned. By mapping the cells’ genetic lineage, the team showed how the relapse could be traced to a minority of cancer cells that were already present at diagnosis.
The result (published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature) underscores a growing recognition that cancer is more like a diverse and evolving ecosystem than a single disease.