One-size treatment for blood cancer probably doesn't fit all, researchers say

November 22, 2017, University of Southern California

Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study led by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

That trend is problematic considering that African-Americans—the most at-risk population for multiple myeloma—have different genetics that can affect how this type of cancer progresses and what kind of targeted therapies are most effective, said Zarko Manojlovic, lead author of the study.

For example, in the study, multiple myeloma of European descent were six times more likely than their African peers to have mutations in the TP53 gene, a that helps prevent cancer. African-Americans, on the other hand, experienced heightened mutations in BCL7A, a different .

"A cancer therapy that targets TP53 would not be as effective for African-Americans with multiple myeloma as it would be for a white population because doctors would be trying to fix the wrong mutated gene," said Manojlovic, assistant professor of research translational genomics at the Keck School of Medicine. 

The study was published on Nov. 22 in PLOS Genetics. Researchers analyzed the genetic sequencing data of 718 multiple myeloma patients and found that African-Americans had increased mutations in the BCL7A, BRWD3 and AUTS2, while white people had more mutations in the genes TP53 and IRF4.

The study is the largest and most ethnically diverse genomics study of multiple myeloma to date, the researchers said.

The scientists genetically analyzed the ancestry for all patients and found that 127 patients were of African descent and 591 were of European descent.

"There are clearly molecular differences between African-American and Caucasian multiple myeloma cases, and it will be critical to pursue these observations to better improve clinical management of the disease for all patients," said John D. Carpten, senior author of the study and chair of the Department of Translational Genomics at the Keck School of Medicine.

Higher incidence rate and lower survival rates for African-Americans

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells in the blood that causes tumor growths in bone marrow. About 30,280 people will be diagnosed with the cancer this year, and about half of them will survive longer than five years, according to the National Cancer Institute.

African-Americans are two times more likely than white people to die from multiple myeloma, the study stated.

"In the past decade, new treatments for the disease have spurred a remarkable improvement in survival for myeloma patients, but those benefits have disproportionately increased survival rates for Caucasian patients," Carpten said. "African-American patients have higher incidence rates and lower survival rates than their Caucasian peers despite this being a relatively easy-to-treat cancer.

"We in the genomics community have a responsibility to ensure that our studies represent true population diversity so we can understand the role of ancestry and biology in health outcomes. The new candidate genes we identified in the African-American population may have been overlooked because of the lack of diversity in previous genomic efforts."

Explore further: Anti-myeloma agent opens for new treatment strategy

Related Stories

Anti-myeloma agent opens for new treatment strategy

October 27, 2017
The tumour form multiple myeloma is very challenging to treat and is still considered incurable. In a recently published study in the scientific journal Oncotarget, researchers at Uppsala University show how inhibition of ...

Study shows that choice of medical center impacts life expectancy of multiple myeloma patients

October 26, 2016
People diagnosed with multiple myeloma are more likely to live longer if they are treated at a medical center that sees many patients with this blood cancer. Mayo Clinic researchers published these findings today in the Journal ...

Rates of kidney failure due to blood cancer are declining

October 29, 2015
The risk of kidney failure caused by multiple myeloma appears to be declining, and survival is lengthening for patients who do develop kidney failure due to this cancer. The findings, which are published in a study appearing ...

Weight loss may help prevent multiple myeloma

November 18, 2016
New research shows that excess weight increases the risk that a benign blood disorder will progress into multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood.

Sylvester researchers develop novel disease model to study multiple myeloma

May 5, 2016
Researchers at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have developed an animal model that allows them to better understand the mechanisms that lead to the development of ...

New treatments to extend life for multiple myeloma patients

February 10, 2017
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells that reside inside bone marrow. Plasma cells produce certain proteins that build up the immune system. In abnormal quantities, these proteins damage the body and compromise ...

Recommended for you

More than 2,500 cancer cases a week could be avoided

March 23, 2018
More than 135,500 cases of cancer a year in the UK could be prevented through lifestyle changes, according to new figures from a Cancer Research UK landmark study published today.

Metastatic lymph nodes can be the source of distant metastases in mouse models of cancer

March 22, 2018
A study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators finds that, in mouse models, cancer cells from metastatic lymph nodes can escape into the circulation by invading nodal blood vessels, leading to the development ...

Could a pap test spot more than just cervical cancer?

March 22, 2018
Pap tests have helped drive down rates of cervical cancer, and a new study suggests they also could be used to detect other gynecologic cancers early.

Researchers identify compound to prevent breast cancer cells from activating in brain

March 22, 2018
Researchers at Houston Methodist used computer modeling to find an existing investigational drug compound for leukemia patients to treat triple negative breast cancer once it spreads to the brain.

Researchers examine role of fluid flow in ovarian cancer progression

March 22, 2018
New research from Virginia Tech is moving physicians closer to pinpointing a predictor of ovarian cancer, which could lead to earlier diagnosis of what is know as the "silent killer."

Gene-based test for urine detects, monitors bladder cancer

March 22, 2018
Researchers at The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have developed a test for urine, gathered during a routine procedure, to detect DNA mutations identified with urothelial cancers.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.