Myelodysplastic syndromes are early cancers, study confirms


For many years there has been confusion about what exactly myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are: chronic blood disorders, pre-cancerous conditions, pre-leukemias, etc. Thanks to researchers from Washington University at the Siteman Cancer Center, it is clearer than ever that MDS are early forms of cancer.

Their work, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, used DNA sequencing technology to track the genetic evolution of MDS in seven patients whose disorders transformed into fatal acute myeloid leukemia.

They identified the so-called 'founding clone' in each patient's disease--the mutation that launched the disease in the first place--then tracked secondary clones as the disease progressed.

In doing so they determined that even in the very early stages of MDS in patients whose disease progresses into AML, as much as 85 percent of the patient's bone marrow cells were already malignant--a discovery that could aide doctors in prognosis.

Furthermore, they found that targeting mutations that occurred later with therapies was largely pointless because the founding clone remained unaffected; to that end, therapies should target the founding mutations in order to be effective.

Source: NEJM

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