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New Blood Test Identifies People at Risk of Developing Blood Cancers

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 28 Aug 2023
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Image: The tool can identify individuals at risk of developing different myeloid leukaemias (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: The tool can identify individuals at risk of developing different myeloid leukaemias (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

The myeloid neoplasms form a group of interconnected cancers encompassing acute myeloid leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, and myeloproliferative neoplasms. Although treatments for these cancers have advanced in recent years, the majority of cases remain without a cure. Recent scientific discoveries have revealed that these cancers develop slowly over decades through the accumulation of DNA mutations in blood stem cells, which are responsible for normal blood formation. These mutations prompt these stem cells to grow faster than usual, and as additional mutations gather, they can lead to leukemia. Fortunately, while mutations promoting cell growth are prevalent, only a small subset of cases progresses to leukemia. Detecting these cases at an early stage could be vital in preventing the development of these cancers. Scientists have now developed a novel test to identify individuals at risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia and related cancers, years before their onset.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK) along with their colleagues have introduced a new platform named 'MN-predict.' This platform empowers doctors and researchers to identify individuals at risk and devise new treatments to prevent the emergence of these potentially life-threatening cancers. The team examined data from over 400,000 individuals to create "MN-predict," a predictive tool capable of assessing the likelihood of developing blood cancers within a 10-15-year timeframe. This test involves patients providing a blood sample from which DNA is extracted and sequenced on a limited scale, along with basic blood cell counts. Armed with this information, the platform identifies those with a high risk of developing any of these cancers. Its application can be integrated into specialized clinics dedicated to leukemia prevention.

“We all know that prevention is better than cure, but it is not easy to prevent diseases like leukemia without knowing who is at risk,” said Professor George Vassiliou, senior author of the study. “MN-predict makes it possible to identify at-risk individuals, and we hope it can become an essential part of future leukemia prevention programs.”

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