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Aurora magazine

Genetic test predicts leukemia 10 years in advance

An international research team has developed a genetic test for acute myeloid leukemia. The test identifies the first signs of the disease in healthy individuals, allowing it to be diagnosed even 10 years in advance. This allows to proceed with therapies that block pre-leukemic alterations in the bud.

The researchers identified those affected by genetic mutations related to this severe cancer of the blood. According to reports, the anomalies can be detected in the blood up to 10 years before acute myeloid leukemia develops. A very broad time window, which gives ample room for prevention and could reduce the mortality rate. It is estimated that 90% of those who get sick after age 65 can not do it.

In 2014 Professor John Dick, one of the authors of the study, had discovered pre-leukemic stem cells in a blood sample. Although these stem cells still behave normally, they already show the first anomalies that will lead to the disease. Starting from this first observation, the professor began to observe the evolutionary process of the cells. He found that the first traces of leukemia are detectable long before the symptoms occur.

To support the thesis, Dick and colleagues examined 550 thousand people. They have studied the state of health and lifestyle over the course of 20 years, identifying all the factors related to the risk of cancer. 124 participants became ill with acute myeloid leukemia 6-10 years after the start of the study. The researchers compared them with 676 people of the same age but healthy, so as to identify any genetic differences.

Thanks to a genetic sequencing tool, the researchers identified genetic alterations typical of the disease. They also found that alterations were present and detectable long before leukemia developed. Now they are hoping to use this discovery to develop screening tests available to everyone, so as to facilitate the prevention of acute myeloid leukemia.