Genomics helps cure leukaemia, say doctors

Bengaluru: Personalised medicine is the latest aid in treatment and it is helping leukaemia patients get a new lease of life. This most-advanced approach customises treatment to an individual on the basis of his or her genetic profile. Unlike other tests, personalised medicine or genomics uses genetic/molecular testing to diagnose the patient and understand the best treatment available. Not only this helps analyse the patient, but also saves time, energy and cost by avoiding unnecessary tests and medications.

Genomics, which is available to all, helps in diagnosis, better management and prevention of diseases. It also helps in precision care, especially while dealing with cancer, experts said.

64-year-old Aswathanarayana L., a retired bank official from the city, had developed acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), which is a type of blood cancer that starts in the bone marrow. It can be life-threatening if not treated on time.

Initial treatment for AML is typically chemotherapy, which aims to kill the leukaemia cells in the bone marrow. Later, physicians opt for additional chemotherapy, radiation therapy or sometimes even a stem cell transplant. Keeping this in mind, Mr. Aswathanarayana was given Decitabine injection, instead of the usual chemotherapy, until he got a report from the lab.

Reports from MedGenome Labs on targetable mutations suggested clinically significant genomic alterations identified in FLT3 and NPM1 genes of Mr Aswathanarayana. This meant that the changes in the genes could be treated with certain medications. 

Dr Vidya H. Veldore, Principal Scientist-Oncology, MedGenome Labs, said, “Several studies have shown that sorafenib (drug) is a strong FLT3 inhibitor, and we decided to administer that to the patient. He is now doing well and is free of cancer.”

AML accounts for approximately 20% of acute leukaemia among children and 80% among adults. It is the second most common leukaemia among children with an annual incidence varying from 0.9 to 1.5 per 100,000 children across the country.

Dr Sachin Jadhav, Haematologist and Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Specialist, Fortis Hospital, said, “It is the best course of treatment for a patient. It helps in precise care and can also positively impact the healthcare spend. This technique is widely used in Western countries currently and is gaining grounds in India as well.”

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