Funded by the Dick Vitale Gala
The overall purpose of our research project is to identify if there are patterns of genetic changes (i.e. mutations) that explain why some children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) fail to effectively respond to chemotherapy and ultimately relapse. Relapsed disease is strongly associated with poor outcome and early death in children with AML. Frequently, when AMLs relapse they do so through the outgrowth of a cell population (subclone) that was present at a low level at the time of diagnosis. These subclones frequently have mutations that allow them grow better after therapy. Unfortunately, we have a poor understanding of these subclones in pediatric AML and methods to detect them and study them are lacking. The proposed studies in this grant will identify these mutations in a large group of relapsed pediatric AML and then address if sensitive approaches to detect mutations in patients after therapy will increase our ability to predict relapse. Currently our methods to predict relapse are not applicable to all cases and likely do not effectively capture all leukemic subclones for analysis. In the second part of this grant we propose a model system to introduce mutations that will allow us to more effectively study the subclonal complexity of AML to understand why some subclones are more resistant to chemotherapy. Collectively these studies will dramatically increase our understanding of pediatric AML with the long-term goal of pushing the outcomes of pediatric AML closer to pediatric ALL.