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Researchers uncover evolutionary forces at play in the aging of the blood system and identify people at increased risk of blood cancer

Excerpt from the Press Release:

Discovery could provide early warning for blood malignancies, triggering proactive screening and enabling early treatment

Toronto – (August 17, 2021) As people age, mutations can build up in blood stem cells and their clones in a process known as age-related clonal hematopoiesis, or ARCH. ARCH can be a risk factor for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a form of blood cancer. New research provides insight into why some with ARCH go on to develop AML and others don’t. These findings, recently published in Nature Communications, have the potential to significantly advance the early detection and treatment of AML by identifying those at high risk of the disease so they can be monitored more closely.

The study, co-led by Dr. Philip Awadalla, Senior Principal Investigator and Director, Computational Biology at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and Dr. Quaid Morris, Member, Computational and Systems Biology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) and OICR Associate, shows how the interplay of positive, neutral and negative evolutionary selection acting on mutations in aging blood stem cells can lead to AML in some individuals with ARCH. They did so by illustrating how negative selection, or ‘purifying selection’, present in individuals who did not go on to develop a malignancy, prevents disease-related cells from coming to dominate the cell population. These discoveries allow for the differentiation between those with ARCH who are at increased risk of developing AML and those who are not.

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