“One of the things that’s important for patients to ask doctors is ‘which subgroup of AML am I in?’ Dr. Gail Roboz, a medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, explains to SurvivorNet.
Studying cytogenetics, which is a branch of genetics that looks at DNA structure, is key in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) research and treatment. In AML diagnoses, patients often have normal chromosomes within AML cells, but according to Dr. Roboz, that isn’t as positive as it sounds.
“In AML, although the majority of patients have normal chromosomes, that is associated with what is termed as an ‘Intermediate prognosis,’ which means that the treatment pathway is going to be different from what we would use for these so-called ‘good prognosis AML subgroups,'” Dr. Roboz says.
Through cytogenetics, physicians will examine the types of chromosomes within patients in order to conclude into which subgroup of AML they fit, which is crucial in determining the best treatment they should receive. These prognostic subgroups include cytogenetic information, molecular genetic information, and mutations.
“This is something that’s actually becoming very well known to patients because there are initiatives that are trying to have the patient be their own advocate and to say ‘well, what is my subgroup of AML? What kind of AML do I have?'” Dr. Roboz says.
Pushing for more answers and options is key for cancer patients after diagnosis and during treatment. Additionally, every patient to learn as much as possible about their diagnosis.
“It’s important to educate yourself and be your own healthcare advocate, and that’s something I think is very important,” Dr. Zuri Murrell, the Director of the Cedars-Sinai Colorectal Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet. “You should leave each doctor’s appointment with a plan.”
By speaking up, cancer patients can learn about multiple options for care, which is something Dr. Steven Rosenberg, Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute and pioneer of genetics and immunotherapy, encourages every patient to do.