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The Importance of Testing With AML

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Published on February 19, 2020

Key Takeaways

A panel of experts including Dr. Hetty Carraway, from the Cleveland Clinic, and Dr. Amer Zeidan, from the Yale Cancer Center, discuss the value of genetic testing in getting an accurate diagnosis, understanding prognosis and choosing the right course of care for acute myeloid leukemia patients. 

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Transcript | The Importance of Testing With AML

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:          
What’s the buzz about AML? You have so much that you’ve been able to talk about in the last couple of years, and I’m going to ask all of you, and you can sort of be added in, but what’s impressed you?

Dr. Carraway:  
Well, the landscape of AML has really changed in the last two years; we now have drugs that are approved, that we never really had the ability to use combinations, that we now can test and use for patients. I would say in the last two years we’ve had about seven or eight novel drugs that have been FDA-approved for patients with AML, and in the last 30 to 40 years that hadn’t happened. So it’s a very exciting time to be in this arena, not only because of the drugs, but because of the testing that we’re doing, looking at specific mutations, that are on the leukemia, that help us focus the chosen therapies that may best fit a patient.

Andrew Schorr:         
So, AML is not a one-size-fits-all?

Dr. Carraway:   
Currently, no. We’re learning that there may be populations of patients that may benefit more from one targeted therapy, for example, than another. So, it’s a very heterogeneous disease.

Andrew Schorr:          
So, if people are different, then you have to do testing now, and testing has improved as well. So a patient comes to you and you can get a clearer picture of what version of AML you’re dealing with. That testing is critical, isn’t it?

 Dr. Zeidan:       
Correct, yes, so the testing is very important on two levels. The first one is to actually confirm what the patient has, whether they actually have acute myeloid leukemia. In certain situations, the diagnosis itself can be challenging, and some patients are diagnosed with what we call higher risk MDS, and some patients are diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Sometimes, the definition of where the cut off between the number of the blasts and the number of the cancer cells in the bone marrow determines that.

The second level is to try to pick the best treatment, and also understand the prognostic outcome, like how well, or poorly is the patient likely to do, based on the genetic studies that we have for them. So, testing for those mutations is becoming extremely important, and becoming, really, a part of the standard of care that I think every patient with acute myeloid leukemia should really have.

Andrew Schorr:            
So, it’s an acute condition for you or your loved one. You need to make sure, wherever you are, that your situation is clearly understood, specifically with testing. Is the diagnosis correct? Of course, which illness? You talked about which version of AML. Have the right tests been done? If you’re not near one of these major centers, maybe you and your doctor make a call, or you get to one of these centers, so that with this changing landscape we’re going to talk about is brought to bear in your case.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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