Unravelling the genetic mysteries of myeloma

Myeloma_Ankit-Dutta

Despite being the third most common blood cancer affecting more than 1500 Australians each year, mystery surrounds the development of myeloma.

What we do know is that in almost every case, myeloma develops from a benign (non-cancerous) disease known as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).

We just don’t know how.

Looking at the genes involved

Researchers at the University of Adelaide believe complex genetic changes drive MGUS to develop into myeloma.

The Leukaemia Foundation is supporting Ankit Dutta with his research aimed at identifying the genetic changes involved in this transition. The Myeloma Research laboratory is based at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).

More than 200,000 Australians over the age of 50 years have MGUS which has no symptoms, and as such remains untreated. Each year, people with MGUS have a 1% risk of progressing to myeloma.

To date, the genetic factors driving the progression from asymptomatic MGUS to myeloma are unknown.

Rare patient samples the key

Through his PhD Scholarship (2015-2017), Ankit is using next-generation sequencing methods to analyse a rare collection of paired bone marrow samples; taken from 25 patients when they were first diagnosed with MGUS and then later when they developed myeloma.

“I’m looking for gene expression changes critical in causing MGUS to develop into myeloma. This information will help us identify biomarkers that can predict which people are prone to developing myeloma,” Ankit said.

“Ultimately, we are hoping to develop new treatments to delay or cure the disease at the MGUS stage.”

 

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