Genomics and precision medicine help the treatment of childhood leukemia

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“The biggest current challenges in the treatment of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) are the management of patient groups with poor prognosis and the short- and long-term effects of chemotherapy on DNA,” said Adjunct Professor Olli Lohi in his keynote speech on genomics and precision therapy in ALL, which he held at the MET Research Day on Thursday. Genomics and precision therapies are key tools that researchers are using to address the challenges.

Lohi is Research Director of TamCAM, Tampere Center for Child, Adolescent and Maternal Health Research and Head of Department at Tampere University Hospital.

Acute leukemia is the most common cancer affecting children. Its most common form – acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) – is caused by failures in lymphoid cell differentiation and it most frequently occurs in 2-5-year-olds. The disease is usually very curable, but sometimes treatments take a long time to work, meaning that the risk of relapse increases.

Researchers have been working to develop targeted treatments, especially for patients with a high risk for a relapse. Studies have analysed, for example, the characteristics of cancer cells and the treatment response and identified a new regulatory gene with high expression in leukemia cells.

“We are currently finalising a study to find effective drug combinations for difficult-to-treat T-cell leukemias. We have also identified genetic features that could explain drug resistance and the increased recurrence of leukemia cells,” Lohi says.

“Although the treatment of childhood leukemia is now effective and the majority of patients can be cured permanently, further development is needed to cure every patient and minimise the side effects of treatment,” Lohi adds.

Research Day gathers MET’s researchers together

The traditional Research Day of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology (MET) will bring together clinical medicine, biomedicine and medical technology researchers from the Faculty on Thursday and Friday. The researchers will present their research, network, and possibly find new cooperation partners.

In addition to Lohi, this year’s keynote speakers are Blanca Rodriguez, Professor of Computational Biology at Oxford University, and Dan Peer, Professor of Precision Medicine at Tel Aviv University.

The title of Rodriguez’s lecture is Towards Precision Cardiology with In Silico Clinical Trials and Digital Twins. Peer’s topic is The RNA Revolution: from Vaccines to Genome Editing.

The programme spans two mornings and includes 15 10-minute research presentations and over 100 pitches from different fields.



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