Beat AML initiative deploys advanced genetic sequencing and computing
technologies to identify mutations driving the disease and develop precision
therapies to stop it
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. and PORTLAND, Ore., Sept. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon
Health & Science University (OHSU) today announced a pioneering collaboration
that brings together scientists from multiple disciplines to better understand a
complex form of leukemia for which there are currently no broadly effective
The multi-institution Beat AML cancer research initiative - designed to leverage
the expertise of technology, sequencing and pharmaceutical collaborators - takes
a next-generation precision medicine approach to vastly accelerate research
findings and ultimately improve outcomes for patients with acute myeloid
leukemia (AML). AML is a particularly devastating blood cancer with less than 25
percent of newly diagnosed patients surviving beyond five years. It causes more
than 10,000 deaths a year in the U.S., and treatment options largely have not
changed in the past 30 years.
LLS and the Knight Cancer Institute are forging Beat AML to change the paradigm
of treatment for AML patients. The initiative acknowledges that AML is, in
reality, a diverse collection of poorly understood rare diseases that share some
common traits. Because of its complexity, improving prospects for AML patients
requires a transformative approach that acknowledges the biological diversity
across AML cases. The research process is designed to provide rapid analysis of
the way in which genes malfunction in individual patients with the disease, how
the disease progresses as well as how it responds to, or evades, treatment.
"This innovative collaboration - involving the world's largest nongovernment
funder of blood cancer research, a group of leading academic research
institutions, two advanced technology companies and potentially multiple
pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies - is among the first of its kind in
the cancer space and unprecedented in terms of the range of expertise involved,"
said Brian Druker, M.D., director of the Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU. "We
are setting ambitious milestones with the goal of helping patients. The project
also might help accelerate other cancer research by serving as a model for the
types of collaboration that are possible to advance research."
The project will be led by Druker and includes researchers at Stanford
University, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Huntsman Cancer Institute at the
University of Utah. Intel Corporation is providing computational analysis and
Illumina is providing the genetic sequencing expertise. The three-year project
also seeks to add more collaborators, including additional pharmaceutical and
biotech companies to test a comprehensive offering of novel drugs that will
address the underlying molecular complexity of AML. As part of this effort,
Array BioPharma will be the first biopharmaceutical company to evaluate its
therapeutics with this project.
Beat AML will create a profile of the possible genetic drivers of AML by
conducting a deep genomic sequencing analysis of participating AML patients'
samples. As information is gathered on potentially relevant mutations,
researchers will simultaneously test the response of patients' leukemia cells to
different drugs and combinations of drugs. This dual process will better equip
scientists to confirm that they have correctly identified a genetic driver of
the disease. This type of approach not only speeds progress in understanding
AML, but more efficiently determines ways to stop the disease and better block
LLS has committed to investing more than $8.2 million in the initial three-year
project which will analyze samples of cancerous cells from 900 patients with
AML. The volume of samples analyzed and the level of detail collected will
enable the Beat AML team to build an extensive biological map of the disease
using their functional genomic approach. Researchers involved hope this enormous
data set will lead to identification of potential new drug targets as well as
novel combinations of drugs. The goal of the project is to move this information
rapidly into the clinic by matching patients with treatments that target their
leukemia more precisely.
Druker's research, which has received significant support from LLS, has already
revolutionized treatment of another form of leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia
"Now we hope to do for patients with AML what has been achieved with CML: Take a
blood cancer that was, with few exceptions, a death sentence, and enable
patients not only to survive, but to enjoy a longer, richer quality of life,"
LLS President and Chief Executive Officer John Walter said. "The Leukemia &
Lymphoma Society is focused on finding cures and ensuring access to therapies
for all blood cancer patients and our priority is to employ the best science to
help us address critical unmet medical needs, which is why we are partnering
with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, a leader in developing targeted cancer
medicines, and Brian Druker's team, whose track record of success is second to
Druker helped prove it was possible to shut down the mutations driving cancer
without harming healthy cells, helping to usher in the era of personalized
cancer medicine with molecularly targeted therapeutic approaches. The drug
Gleevec(R), which was developed out of Druker's early research, is now among one
of dozens of similar drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Gleevec changed the average life expectancy for CML patients who previously
could expect to live only about five years after diagnosis. Now they have a
normal lifespan and quality of life.
Visual and video assets:
Graphics to help illustrate this story are available for download here and here.
Video sound bites from LLS CEO John Walter are available at this link, and sound
bites from Brian Druker, M.D, are available at this link.
About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (R) (LLS) is the world's largest voluntary
health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia,
lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of
patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around
the world and provides free information and support services.
Founded in 1949 and headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapters
throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org.
Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572,
Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.
About the Knight Cancer Institute
The Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University is a pioneer
in the field of personalized cancer medicine. The institute's director, Brian
Druker, M.D., helped prove it was possible to shut down cells that enable cancer
to grow without harming healthy cells. This breakthrough has made once-fatal
forms of the disease manageable and ushered in a new generation of targeted
cancer therapies. The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is the only National Cancer
Institute-designated Cancer Center between Sacramento and Seattle -- an honor
earned only by the nation's top cancer centers. It offers the latest treatments
and technologies as well as hundreds of research studies and clinical trials.
For LLS contact: Andrea Greif
For OHSU contact: Elisa Williams
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Video with caption: "Beat AML takes novel approach to drug discovery." Video
Video with caption: "Video sound bites from LLS CEO John Walter." Video
available at: http://youtu.be/c9pbB-nDS98
PDF with caption: "Personalized medicine approach to treating patients with
acute myeloid leukemia." PDF available at:
PDF with caption: "Looking to beat acute myeloid leukemia." PDF available at:
SOURCE The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society