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Diagnostics Hematology, Liquid biopsy, Oncology, Analytical science

Improving Our Early Warning System for AML

At a Glance

  • Bone marrow transplants can be a curative therapy for acute myeloid leukemia, but a significant proportion of patients still relapse
  • Chimerism testing is routinely used to monitor relapse in transplanted patients, but a more sensitive, effective method is needed
  • Droplet digital PCR measures the concentration of bone marrow-derived DNAs containing AML-associated mutations to offer a reliable approach to relapse monitoring
  • The technique enables physicians to detect signs of relapse sooner, giving them more time to plan treatment regimens for their patients

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) can be a devastating disease – but it’s not without treatment options; for example, allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT), which replaces a patient’s cancer-producing hematopoietic stem cells with ones that produce healthy cells. But even though it’s meant to conclude a patient’s cancer care, even BMT is not a guaranteed cure: 40–50 percent of patients who receive a transplant still relapse (1).

Patients who undergo BMT do not typically receive any additional therapy to prevent relapse. If a patient’s body does not accept the graft and the transplant fails, they will likely also respond poorly to any alternative treatment. However, using more sensitive methods to detect relapse earlier – even before it appears using standard clinical measures – might provide patients with more effective options with respect to chemotherapies and targeted agents.

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About the Author

Amanda Winters

Instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver and a pediatric oncologist in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's Hospital Colorado in Denver, USA.

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