Wednesday 11 July 2012

How NGS helped a physician scientist beat his own leukaemia

An amazing story was featured in the New York Times, the article follows Dr. Lukas Wartman from Wash U who is a leukaemia researcher who developed leukaemia himself.

The Genome Institute at Wash U made a concerted effort to find out what was behind Dr Wartman’s disease, performing tumour:normal and tumour RNA-seq analysis. He was fortunate to be included in a research study that was ongoing at Wash U, although that creates all sorts of ethical issues around who can access treatment and who cannot.

From the sequence analysis they found that FLT3 was more highly expressed than usual and could be driving his leukaemia. The drug Sutent had recently been approved for treating advanced kidney cancer, and it does it by inhibiting FLT3. Howwever it had never been used for leukaemia and unfortunately is costs $330 a day. Dr Wartman’s insurers and Pfizer turned him down for treatment.

The doctors he works with chipped in to buy a months supply and the treatment worked. Microscopic analysis showed the blood was clean, flow cytometry found no cancer cells and FISH was clear as well. Dr Wartman is back in remission and I certainly wish him all the best.

I'd love to hear back if circulating-tumor DNA analysis of his plasma is used as a monitoring test.

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