CANBERRA, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Australian researchers have developed a groundbreaking test to identify leukemia patients who are candidates for lifelong treatment-free remission (TFR).
In a research paper published on Thursday, scientists led by a team from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) made a major breakthrough in effectively curing chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
The culmination of six years of research, the test can accurately determine if a patient is suitable to safely stop undergoing treatment for CML.
"With this discovery, we move the conversation for people with CML from one of lifelong disease control to one of cure," Ilaria Pagani, the first author of the research from the SAHMRI and University of Adelaide, said in a media release on Thursday.
"With the test we have developed, we can predict with a high degree of accuracy who will have an excellent probability of ongoing TFR."
According to the U.S.-based Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), TFR is achieved when a CML patient maintains a deep molecular response (DMR) after undergoing tyrosine kinases inhibitors (TKI) therapy and does not need to restart treatment.
Previously, there was no way of telling if a patient would successfully achieve TFR or need to restart therapy, but Pagani said the new test can do so by measuring the presence of the leukemia-defining BCR-ABL1 fusion gene in a patient's blood.
"What we have now shown is that the chances of relapse depend greatly on which type of cell the disease is detected in - if it's in what are known as myeloid cells, then the chances of TFR are sadly pretty low, but if it's in lymphocytes then that has limited impact on relapse likelihood," she said in the media release.
"This new lineage-specific BCR-ABL1 test can now be used to determine who can safely stop therapy, who should continue therapy for a longer period, and who needs a different therapy before they could be considered for TFR."