U of MN researchers find genetic variations may predict treatment responses for myeloma

September 12, 2003

Researchers from The Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota have demonstrated that variations in genes may determine the outcome and toxicity of treatments for myeloma cancer patients. The findings support thinking that physicians may optimize care by adjusting treatment according to a patient's specific genetic condition. The findings will be presented September 15, 2003 at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)-sponsored specialty meeting on "SNPs, Haplotype, and Cancer: Application in Molecular Epidemiology."

Although chemotherapy drugs can be effective against myeloma in many patients, they can be less effective or even lethal in others. By determining a patient's toxic susceptibility to drugs through analysis of specific genetic variances, or single nucleotide polymorhphisms (SNPs), in genes known to promote myeloma growth, clinicians can adjust dosage levels or choose alternate, safer drugs to benefit the patient.

Led by Brian Van Ness, Ph.D., professor of genetics and a member of The Cancer Center, researchers analyzed patient samples from an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Study on myeloma chemotherapy treatments for 700 patients between 1987-1994. For this particular investigation, researchers examined 400 patient DNA samples for SNPs in genes that promote myeloma growth. Those patients with the SNPs that result in low production of the growth factor, generally had better outcomes to the chemotherapy and increased survival times.

"These data confirm that our research on genetic variances and their effect on treatment outcome is headed in the right direction," said Van Ness. "This important first step means we can start developing clinical trials based on genetic conditions that can lead to more effective treatments and help to evaluate new, targeted therapies."

Myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, which are antibody-producing cells normally present in the bone marrow. More than 1,000 new cases or myeloma are diagnosed daily around the world making this the second most common form of blood cancer after lymphoma.
Co-authors of this study are William R. Kiffmeyer, Ph.D., Fangyi Zhao Ph.D. and Martin Oken M.D. of the University of Minnesota, and Emily Blood and Montse Rue, Ph.D. of the Easter Cooperative Oncology Group. The International Myeloma Foundation, through its Bank on a Cure project, will considerably expand this study in the future.

The Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota is a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Awarded more than $80 million in peer-reviewed grants during fiscal year 2003, the Cancer Center conducts cancer research that advances knowledge and enhances care. The center also engages community outreach and public education efforts addressing cancer. To learn more about cancer, visit the University of Minnesota Cancer Center Web site at http://www.cancer.umn.edu. For cancer questions, call the Cancer Center information line at 1-888-CANCER MN (1-888-226-2376) or 612-624-2620 in the metro area.

Additional Contacts:
Todd Matthew
The Cancer Center (University of Minnesota)

American Association for Cancer Research

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