Progress for Leukemia Test

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia ZAP 70 prognostic biomarker identified

(RxWiki News) Everybody likes simple solutions to complex problems. A blood test for a diagnosis, a pill to cure. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is one step closer to that day.

Building on earlier research, a team of scientists from several different German universities managed to pinpoint the exact genetic change that had been identified as a good bet for a blood test.

"Ask your oncologist about genetic testing for your cancer."

The protein, made from the gene ZAP 70, has a single missing piece in the DNA that could mean the world to patients with CLL.

While not a mutation in the actual genetic code, this change in the DNA packaging is referred to as methylation, and could form the basis of a blood test that would classify their leukemia's aggression.

Absence of this packaging, referred to as methylation, is similar to deregulation in a sense and like many genetic changes in cancer, means that the normal regulations on cell division and growth are becoming unhinged.

An editorial published alongside the study spoke of the changing world of cancer markers, noting that the researchers succeeded because they focused on the less obvious factors such as methylation rather than classic genetic mutations.

The editorial was written by Jean-Pierre Issa, MD, director of the Fels Institute for Cancer Research at Temple University.

Dr. Issa wrote about the complex nature of cancer evolution, saying that future studies may need to focus on similar changes that are missed in traditional genetic analysis.

“Arguably, it may one day be less important to see cancer (pathology and scans) and more important to know what we cannot see — the cancer genome,” Dr. Issa stated. 

“It is also increasingly likely that DNA sequencing will not be sufficient for this purpose and that comprehensive DNA methylation analysis will be equally important in determining outcomes and selecting patients for various therapies.”

Using four different clinical studies, 247 samples were used to identify the single change.

Researchers believe that further development of their work could serve as the basis for a future test would identify key patients at risk for advanced, aggressive chronic leukemia.

The research was published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on May 7, 2012.

Several members of the research team disclosed financial relationships other forms of industry connections with drug manufacturers, including Novartis, AstraZeneca, Siemens, MedImmune, Roche, UptoDate, and Merck.

Review Date: 
June 1, 2012