Researchers find biomarker to predict recurrence of chronic myeloid leukemia

Lab work in a leukaemia research lab

26th February 2019

Korean researchers said they have discovered a biomarker to predict a therapy response more precisely in patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia, which they said was for the first time in the world.

The Korea Health Industry Development Institute said a study by Kim Jong-won, a professor at the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Genetics, Samsung Medical Center, and his research team discovered the first predictive biomarker that can predict the deep molecular response (DMR) of leukaemia genes for the first time in the world.

DMR refers to a condition in which almost no BCR-ABL gene, the primary cause of chronic myeloid leukaemia, is detected. The research laid the groundwork for the development of objective guidelines for discontinuation of drug administration, it added.

Chronic myeloid leukaemia is a type of cancer of white blood cells caused by the abnormal proliferation of hematopoietic stem cells. Imatinib (brand name: Glivec) is a therapy for chronic myeloid leukaemia.

Imatinib is a targeted therapy that selectively inhibits the gene BCR-ABL, which appears in over 90 percent of patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia.

However, there was no biomarker to predict the recurrence of the disease in patients who do not show a therapeutic response after the imatinib administration.

Physicians have relied only on their judgement to decide whether to discontinue the treatment.

Kim’s research team monitored and analysed the genome data of 471 patients of Korean and European descent who were taking imatinib for about five years, and verified study results through gene control.

The study showed that patients, whose cancer-causing BCR-ABL gene was consistently detected, had an association with a particular genotype of HMGCLL1, a mutation gene in chromosome 6 which the team newly discovered.

Chronic myeloid leukaemia requires long-term medication, so we need a biomarker to predict the possibility of recurrence. I hope this study can contribute to the functional cure of leukaemia.

Kim Jong-won

The researchers conducted the study with the support of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s program to develop technologies overcoming diseases. The study has been published on the latest issue of Leukemia, one of the leading hematology journals.

Credit: Korea Biomedical Review