Dr. Eytan Stein shares why AML patients should undergo molecular testing when choosing a treatment approach, explaining how targeted therapy works to treat AML patients who have specific genetic mutations.
Dr. Eytan Stein is a hematologist oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and serves as Director of the Program for Drug Development in Leukemia in Division of Hematologic Malignancies. Learn more about Dr. Stein, here.
Why is identification of genetic markers essential before choosing treatment?
Dr. Eytan Stein:
Because when you know the genetic markers, you can target the genetic abnormalities, sometimes with specific targeted therapies, with therapies that fit like a key in a specific lock.
And those targeted therapies have been shown, in some cases, to improve the survival of the patients, without much cost, without much toxicity. So, I’ll give you an example of this.
There is a very common genetic abnormality in patients with acute myeloid leukemia called the FLT3 or FLT3 mutation. When you have that mutation, there is a targeted therapy that targets the FLT3 mutation called midostaurin (Rydapt), and it’s been shown in a very large clinical trial that the addition of the targeted FLT3 inhibitor midostaurin in combination with chemotherapy leads to better overall survival than chemotherapy alone.
So, you need to know that information because you want to give your patient the best chance at beating the disease. And that’s why it’s also important to try to get this information back quickly. You know, no one wants to be sitting around waiting for four weeks to find out if they’ve got a specific mutation. And we’ve gotten better. I think medical centers generally have gotten better at getting this mutational information back to their doctors relatively quickly.
Does every patient get this standard testing?
Dr. Eytan Stein:
It is – does everyone get it? I don’t know. But “Should everyone get it?” is, I think, the important question. Yes, everyone should get this testing.
It is incorporated into the NCCN and National Comprehensive Cancer Network and European Leukemia Net guidelines. It is important not only because you can think about targeted therapies, but it is also important for prognostic reasons, meaning that certain mutations lead to a higher risk of relapse, and those mutations in a patient might lead me to recommend a stem cell transplant, which is sort of the most intensive thing we can do to help prevent a relapse, while other mutations, which might be “favorable”, in quotes, they might lead me not to recommend a stem cell transplant.
So, I think this mutational testing is the standard of care and should be done in every patient with newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia.