Todd Druley, MD, PhD, a Washington University pediatric oncologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, has been awarded the Hyundai Hope on Wheels (HHOW) Quantum Award to continue his research on acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Dr. Druley’s initial research began with a grant from the Children’s Discovery Institute (CDI), a research partnership between St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. The $1 million HHOW Quantum Award enables a multi-disciplinary team of pediatric leukemia experts to study very rare AML mutations in order to tailor therapies to the unique biology of individual children. The goal is to improve treatments and increase survival rates.
AML only accounts for 25 percent of pediatric leukemia cases but accounts for 50 percent of pediatric leukemia deaths. One reason for poor outcomes is the inability to definitively assess the presence of residual cancer cells. Flow cytometry, the test traditionally used for that purpose, is not always sensitive enough to detect lurking cancer cells and cannot link leukemia mutations to precision therapies.
The Druley lab has developed, validated and applied error-corrected sequencing that is 100 times more sensitive at finding residual leukemia mutations than standard DNA sequencing approaches. Preliminary studies fine previously undetectable AML-related warning signs in more than 65 percent of pediatric cases studied to date.
Dr. Druley’s team will apply this innovative sequencing technique to more than 1,800 specimens collected by the Children’s Oncology Group. This partnership of pediatric cancer researchers worldwide was the largest childhood AML trial ever completed. The result of the Druley lab’s large-scale sequencing will be detection of residual AML, which will improve future therapeutic selection and survival for children with AML.