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Dr Chen Hsung Edward Chew

PhD Scholarship (Clinical)

Supported by The Bill Long Charitable Trust

Researcher:        Dr Chen Hsung Edward Chew
Institute:      The Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Project title:        What are the genetic factors responsiblefor relapse in 
                     acute myeloid leukaemia?
Disease focus:    Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
Annual Funding: $60,000
Funding period:  2014-2017

Project summary

Dr Edward Chew is scanning the DNA of patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) to identify gene variations contributing to patients having relapsed or refractory disease. He is focusing on the ‘good prognosis’ sub group of AML, which have disruptions to the core binding factor gene.

Among patients with ‘good prognosis core binding factor AML’, there is an overall survival rate of only 44%. To understand the genetic factors contributing to poor outcomes within this subgroup, Dr Chew is analysing bone marrow samples collected from 18 patients before and during treatment.

According to Dr Chew, multiple genetic abnormalities acquired during therapy are probably responsible for ‘good prognosis core binding AML’ developing resistance to chemotherapy.

“To help us predict who will respond poorly to therapy, we’re identifying the genetic mutations occurring in patients who relapse,” he said. “This information will allow us to tailor patient treatment accordingly. Currently a stem cell transplant is considered the definitive treatment and our findings will help clinicians decide if their patients’ AML will develop resistance and if a stem cell transplant is recommended.”

Dr Chew is testing the usefulness of the genetic variations he identifies through an international collaboration with groups holding large tissue sample collections. He is optimistic his results will lead to a new prognostic test for AML in the short-term.

In addition, Dr Chew is also characterising the mutated genes he discovers to better understand how they confer resistance to leukaemia cells. In the longer term, these findings could lead to the development of new therapeutics for AML.

The Leukaemia Foundation also awarded a Grant-in-Aid (2014) to Dr Ian Majewski to identify genetic changes characterising CBF-AML.