AML Insight

microRNA Prognostic Marker Identified in Acute Leukemia

Clara BloomfieldA study led by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) has identified microRNA-3151 as an independent prognostic marker in certain patients with acute leukemia.

The study involved patients with acute myeloid leukemia and normal-looking chromosomes (CN-AML). It found that when microRNA-3151 (miR-3151) is overexpressed in CN-AML, the disease responds poorly to treatment, and patients experience shorter remissions and survival periods.

This effect is independent of other gene mutations that may be present. Additionally, miR-3151 is encoded within a gene called BAALC, which itself is an independent marker of poor survival when overexpressed in CN-AML.

The findings provide insight into the nature of AML and might help determine the best therapy for individual patients, further personalizing AML therapy.

“Patients with high levels of both miR-3151 and BAALC had the poorest outcome compared with either miR-3151 or BAALC alone, or those expressing low levels of both,” says principal investigator Clara D. Bloomfield, MD, a Distinguished University Professor and cancer scholar/senior adviser to the OSUCCC – James. “This suggests that miR-3151 and BAALC may act through different mechanisms to enhance poor outcome of CN-AML patients.”

The study involved 179 patients of age 60 or older with CN-AML who were treated on Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) clinical trials.

MicroRNAs are small molecules that cells use to help regulate the kind and amount of proteins they make. About a third of human microRNAs are encoded within host gene sectors called introns, short stretches of DNA that are not used when genetic information is translated to make a protein.

First author Ann-Kathrin Eisfeld, MD, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of study co-author Albert de la Chapelle, MD, PhD, and Bloomfield, says this study provides “the first description of interplay of an oncogene and its intronic, and possibly oncogenic, microRNA.”

Published in the journal Blood.

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