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Multiple myeloma study uncovers genetic diversity within tumors
Date:1/13/2014

The most comprehensive genetic study to date of the blood cancer multiple myeloma has revealed that the genetic landscape of the disease may be more complicated than previously thought. Through results published in Cancer Cell today, a team of Broad researchers has shown that an individual patient's tumor can harbor populations of cancer cells equipped with different mutations. These findings could have therapeutic implications for patients in the future.

"What this new work shows us is that when we treat an individual patient with multiple myeloma, it's possible that we're not just looking at one disease, but at many in the same person, there could be cancer cells with different genetic make-ups," said co-senior author Todd Golub, the Broad Institute's Chief Scientific Officer and Charles A. Dana Investigator in Human Cancer Genetics at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Golub is also a professor at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "These findings indicate a need to identify the extent of genetic diversity within a tumor as we move toward precision cancer medicine and genome-based diagnostics."

In a detailed study of samples from more than 200 multiple myeloma patients, Golub and colleagues identified frequent mutations in several key genes known to play an important role in cancer including KRAS, NRAS, and BRAF. But they found that many of these telltale mutations were not present in all cancer cells within a tumor instead, they were often found in only a smaller fraction of cells, known as a subclonal population.

Many promising cancer therapies used in treatment today target a specific genetic mutation. This new work suggests that such targeted therapies may have limitations in patients whose tumors are made up of these subclonal populations.

The research team performed follow-up experiments in the lab to explore some of the therapeutic implications, looking specifical
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Contact: Haley Bridger
hbridger@broadinstitute.org
617-714-7968
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Source:Eurekalert

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