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ARCS Oregon Scholars Reveal the First Direct Evidence that Leukemia Development Depends on the Order of How Mutations Occur

Posted on Friday, January 17, 2020

Julia Maxson and Ted Braun are two ARCS scholars from the Oregon Chapter who are part of a team at OHSU who have uncovered how two gene mutations act in sequence, like a one-two punch, to trigger acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Julia and Ted happen to be husband and wife.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia is the most common blood cancer in adults and is one of the most difficult to treat, because of the multitude of genes that are mutated in the blood-forming cells of people with the disease.

The researchers devised a way to change the order in which the mutations occur and were able to study how mutation order impacts cancer development. According to Julia Maxson, PhD, senior author of the paper in Nature Communications, “Our hope is that a better biological understanding will enable the development of more effective therapies.” Maxson is an assistant professor in the OHSU School of Medicine and a member of the Knight Cancer Institute.

 “This new study starts to tell us more about early events in cancer: a gene that helps a white blood cell to grow up broken and sets the stage for cancer happening down the road,” said first author Ted Braun, MD, PhD, an instructor of hematology and medical oncology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

The need for better therapies is critical. Each year, more than 20,000 Americans are diagnosed with AML and more than 10,000 die from it. The five-year survival rate is around 30%, versus rate of 70% and higher in other common forms of leukemia.

Read their research paper in Nature Communications.

Courtesy of OHSU publication.
Research team members (left to right) Zachary Schonrock, Ted Braun, Brittany Smith, Sarah Carratt, Julia Maxson and Mariam Okhovat.