Study Finds Pharmacotyping Pediatric Leukemia Offers Blueprint to Better Precision Medicine

Researchers at St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital have conducted a new study looking into drug sensitivity among patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia across a variety of genetic subtypes. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a common childhood cancer that affects white blood cells. It is estimated that roughly 98% of children suffering from this cancer type will experience remission after a few weeks of treatment. Of this number, almost 90% will be cured.

Current treatments for acute lymphoblastic leukemia are risk adapted, which means that chemotherapy is based on leukemia genomics, clinical features and the extent of minimal residual disease.

The researchers’ objective was to examine the pharmacogenomics of acute lymphoblastic leukemia by looking into how the cancer cells responded to different therapies. Pharmacogenomics refers to the study of the ways an individual’s genetic characteristics affect their body’s response to drugs.

For their research, the scientists studied children who had been diagnosed with acute leukemia and determined the sensitivity of the cancer’s cells to 18 different chemotherapy medications. Their findings show that more than 800 patients demonstrated extensive variability across acute lymphoblastic leukemia, in addition to clear patterns of sensitivity to drugs by subtype. The researchers also discovered that acute lymphoblastic leukemia subtypes with favorable prognoses were linked to sensitivity to asparaginase. This is in addition to observing that some subtypes had different drug-sensitivity patterns but were similar in their genomics.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that patients could be grouped based on their profiles on drug sensitivity. This, they noted, highlighted the need to understand acute lymphoblastic leukemia pharmacotypes as they influenced patient survival outcomes.

Dr. Jun Yang, the study’s corresponding author, revealed that the researchers used an approach different to traditional research on cancer genomics, which allowed them to gain valuable glimpses into the treatment implications of certain genomic alterations. This, Yang explained, could help clinicians better understand why and how patients responded to treatment and modify care.

Former CEO and president of St. Jude, William Evans co-led this research effort with. Yang. He stated that their research had provided useful insights into the effectiveness of various drugs used in the treatment of childhood leukemia.

In their report, the researchers note that their findings provide a blueprint for precision medicine to individualize treatments.

The study’s findings were reported in “Nature Medicine.” It was supported by grants from ALSAC, St. Jude’s fundraising and awareness organization, and the National Institutes of Health.

Other researchers involved include Dr. Gary Rosner of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Yoshihiro Gocho, Wenjian Yang, August John, Brandon Smart, Lauren Rowland, Dylan Maxwell, Hannah Williams, Wentao Yang, Jeremy Hunt, Kathryn Roberts, Kristine Crews, Cheng Cheng, Sima Jeha, Mary Relling, Hiroto Inaba, Seth Karol, Ching-Hon Pui and Charles Mullighan of St. Jude.

With companies such as QSAM Biosciences Inc. (OTCQB: QSAM) also heavily focused on furthering the quest for better cancer treatments, it may not be long before major paradigm shifts are registered in the realm of cancer care.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to QSAM Biosciences Inc. (OTCQB: QSAM) are available in the company’s newsroom at

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