The first test to quickly and accurately predict how people will respond to standard treatment for the most common type of leukemia has been developed at Cardiff University. The technology could guide doctors’ decisions on which drugs to give to patients. The Cardiff researchers say that the test could now be a ‘game changer’ in the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
Potential to change
It also has the potential to change how other cancers, including myeloma and breast cancer, are treat. While previous versions of the test had taken a week to process, results can now be ready in a day. The research, which is find by the blood cancer research charity Blood wise, is publish the journal Leukemia.
CLL is a slowly developing blood cancer in which patients produce mutated versions of white blood cells that build up in the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes and crowd out healthy blood cells. CLL progresses at different rates in different people and never progresses at all in a third of patients. Until now there is no accurate test that use to indicate whether and how fast individual patients’ cancer will develop.
Fast progressing cancer.
The high-throughput ‘STELA’ test developed in Cardiff measures the length of sections of DNA in cancer cells called telomeres, which are found at the end of chromosomes. Telomeres act in the same way as protective plastic tips on the end of shoelaces; preventing chromosomes ends from ‘fraying’.
Telomeres shorten every time a cell divides to create a new cell and eventually the chromosome ends are left exposed leading to extensive DNA damage that speeds up cancer progression. The Cardiff researchers have shown that people who have very short telomeres when they are diagnosed ;are much more likely to have a fast-progressing cancer.
The improved STELA test was used to analyze samples; from 260 patients to see if it could predict how patients would respond to intensive chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy. The test showed that people with short telomeres relapsed much sooner after treatment than patients with long telomeres on average 3.7 years after treatment compared to 5.5 years.
Patients with cancer cells containing mutations to the IGHV gene are know; to have a better outcome than patients without this genetic mutation. The STELA test is find to be a more accurate predictor of relapse than testing for the IGHV mutation ; or any other current prognostic or predictive test.
Not all patients benefit equally from chemotherapy and this test is the only one available ; that can accurately predict how patients are likely to respond. Our research provides strong evidence that a significant number of patients should be receiving more appropriate treatments.” Our study shows that some patients have a very long duration of response to chemotherapeutic; and is cure. These patients all have long telomeres. In contrast; patients with short telomeres invariably show an inferior response and should be consider for alternative treatments.