Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical Center have demonstrated that epigenetic priming of standard induction chemotherapy can be safely administered in an attempt to improve the response rate of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Epigenetics refers to reversible alterations to DNA or DNA-associated proteins which affect gene expression, and epigenetic processes have been shown by researchers at WCMC and others to be disrupted in many types of cancer. Drugs currently available and approved by the FDA can target these abnormal epigenetic changes, and pretreatment with these drugs (epigenetic priming) might make cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy.
In the research study recently published in Blood, the Journal of the of the American Society of Hematology, patients were treated with the drug decitabine prior to a standard induction of chemotherapy. The toxicity, or side effects, of chemotherapy plus decitabine was similar to that of chemotherapy alone. Although the primary purpose of the study was to evaluate the safety of adding decitabine, the epigenetic primer, to standard chemotherapy, the overall complete response rate was 83%, suggesting that decitabine-primed induction should be explored as a complementary approach to standard chemotherapy. Click here to read the published research paper.
There is the possibility that the approach of epigenetic priming could translate into therapeutic advantages in other forms of cancers. Many types of cancers have been shown to develop with abnormal epigenetic changes, including lymphoma. The lymphoma research group at Weill Cornell Medical Center is also exploring the strategy of epigenetic priming in patients with newly diagnosed aggressive B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in hopes of improving on results of standard chemotherapy. Click here to read more about this study. Click here to read the clinical and research profile of Rebecca Elstrom, MD, the physician leading the lymphoma trial.