Genetic information makes precision medicine possible for people with relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia
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Because you are unique, you want health care that is personalized to your needs. If you are at risk of developing or have cancer, you want more than personalization. You want precision. This is why precision medicine based on personal genetic information is important.
Precision medicine may also be called personalized medicine, and conversations with your doctor about this topic may include information about genetic changes, DNA sequencing, biomarker or molecular testing.1 Once your health care team has your genetic profile or the genetic makeup of your cancer from tests like these, they have additional information to guide precision medicine.1
Precision medicine uses genetic information of your tumor cells to inform diagnosis and treatment recommendations.1,2 Your genetic profile may also include information about gene mutations, which are changes that could impact your health and, therefore, your care.3
According to the American Cancer Society, precision medicine might be used to help doctors3:
- Identify who might be at high risk for cancer
- Prevent some types of cancer
- Find certain cancers early
- Diagnose a specific type of cancer correctly
- Choose what treatment options are best
- Evaluate how a treatment is working
Understanding FLT3 mutations in AML
Genes are made up of long chains of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that can be arranged in different ways that serve as codes, providing instructions for what happens in the body.4 Sometimes, abnormal changes known as mutations happen in the DNA of a cell, which can instruct the body to do harmful things, such as develop cancer like acute myeloid leukemia (AML).3
AML is an aggressive type of blood cancer in which the bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells.5 There are different subtypes of AML that are each caused by a unique gene mutation.4 FLT3 is just one of many gene mutations that can be present in AML.4 When a disease like AML does not improve after previous treatment(s), it is known as refractory. If a disease comes back after a period of improvement, it is known as a relapse.4
Generally, genetic testing is done with bone marrow or blood tests.5 If a genetic test reveals a gene mutation like FLT3, doctors can work with you to determine a treatment plan that may address the mutation.4 Your genes inform precision medicine.3
It’s important to remember that gene mutations can develop over time.1 Even though you may have been tested at diagnosis, your physician may also perform tests to see if you have developed any genetic mutations since your initial diagnosis.4
“We are starting to see that mutations have functional impact that are going to have prognostic and therapeutic impact going forward.” – Naval Daver, M.D., MD Anderson Cancer Center.
AML is a journey
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with relapsed or refractory AML, it can be overwhelming. Finding answers throughout treatments can feel challenging, but these tips can help:
Ask questions: Feel free to discuss any questions you have with your health care team. You may want to write them down before your appointments to ensure you remember them. Visit BeAMLReady.com to access a discussion guide with foundational questions to help start the conversation.
Track symptoms: AML can change over time7 , so actively monitor your health and engage your doctor immediately if anything changes. Use a method that works best for you, whether that’s a personal notebook, a digital calendar or another tool.
Form a team: Maintain a strong partnership with your caregivers and health care providers throughout your treatment journey. Not only will the healthcare team provide important treatments and guidance, they’ll provide essential support and can recommend additional resources to help you if needed.
Find out mutation status: Your disease journey is unique to you. Knowing your genetic mutation status may impact your treatment options. Ask about getting tested and consider retesting at relapse or if your disease progresses.4
Find support: Your family, friends and health care teams provide important foundational support. Some people also appreciate connecting to others impacted by AML, so consider joining advocacy organizations or online AML support communities.
Visit BeAMLReady.com for more information on precision medicine, relapsed or refractory AML, the importance of genetic testing and how to prepare for every step of the treatment journey.
- National Cancer Institute. Precision medicine in cancer treatment (10-03-2017). https://www.cancer.gov/about- cancer/treatment/types/precision-medicine. Accessed 04-08-2021.
- American Cancer Society. How genes can help in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer (06-25-2014). https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/genetics/genes-and-cancer/genes-in-cancer-diagnosis-and- treatment.html. Accessed 09-15-2021.
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). NCCN Guidelines for Patients Acute Myeloid Leukemia (06/01/2020). https://www.nccn.org/patients/guidelines/content/PDF/aml-patient.pdf. Accessed 11-09-2021.
- National Cancer Institute. Adult acute myeloid leukemia treatment (PDQ®): patient version (03-06-2020). https://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia/patient/adult-aml-treatment-pdq. Accessed 04-23-2021.
- McCormick SR, McCormick MJ, Grutkoski PS, et al. FLT3 mutations at diagnosis and relapse in acute myeloid leukemia: cytogenetic and pathologic correlations, including cuplike blast morphology. Arch Pathol Lab Med 2010;134(8):1143- 51.
- American Cancer Society. About acute myeloid leukemia (06-24-2019). https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/CRC/PDF/Public/8674.00.pdf. Accessed 09-13-2021.