The world’s largest and most innovative practice for treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) teams up with experts from across MD Anderson to address some of the most nettlesome problems confronting these patients.

In MDS, the bone marrow produces too few blood cells. AML involves an overgrowth of immature blood cells so there aren’t enough mature blood cells to prevent anemia, infection or bleeding. These separate malignancies exist along a spectrum ranging from early stage MDS, which might never progress or might develop into advanced versions of either malignancy. AML also can originate apart from MDS.


Tackling resistance to drugs

A class of drugs called hypomethylating agents is effective against AML and MDS. Eventually, resistance to treatment develops and patients face a poor prognosis.

The AML/MDS Moon Shot strives to understand the molecular basis of resistance to these drugs and to find other therapies to overcome this challenge.

Working with the Moon Shots Program proteomics platform, the team is developing new cell lines that are either sensitive or resistant to these drugs to illuminate the mechanisms of resistance and ways to defeat it. Analysis of proteins active in AML and MDS will be integrated with profiles of genomic abnormalities and chemical regulation to provide a comprehensive picture.

Pilot project for applying supercomputing, artificial intelligence

This moon shot is pioneering a new system that uses advanced supercomputing technology to  integrate all information related to patients – diagnosis, treatment history, initial and ongoing genomic analysis – with clinical and other research data into a secure database.

This system, called Adaptive Patient-Oriented Longitudinal Learning and Optimization (APOLLO), includes the development of MD Anderson’s Oncology Expert Advisor powered by IBM’s Watson.

Advanced big data analytics, along with the artificial intelligence of IBM’s Watson, the world’s smartest computer, will allow clinicians to pluck new insights for research and patient care out of a torrent of information.

New genomics capacity permits advanced, in-depth information on patients’ AML or MDS before, during and after treatment. Watson provides probability-based recommendations to clinicians even as it learns from MD Anderson experts.

The power of integrated information, nimbly accessed through handheld devices in the clinic, presents new opportunities to improve treatment, enhance research and ultimately eradicate these diseases.

Better blood stem cell transplants, AML-targeted therapy

Another research arm of the moon shot engages MD Anderson’s innovative experts in blood stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy, who have a strong record of improving the safety and impact of this  treatment and operate the world’s largest clinical practice.

Blood stem cell transplants are commonly used to treat both AML and MDS. New immune therapy approaches will be examined to further improve the effectiveness and safety of transplants. New cellular therapies to better target AML are under investigation.

Addressing critical issues in the treatment of AML and MDS with using novel, collaborative research and applying innovative supercomputing and artificial intelligence technology relies heavily on philanthropic support.

Meet the Team: Leukemia (AML/MDS)

The moon shot leaders have galvanized a large and integrated team that is moving forward in a milestone-driven manner to convert scientific knowledge into drugs, tests, devices and policies that can benefit patients as quickly as possible.

Hagop Kantarjian, M.D.
Chair and Professor, Leukemia
Guillermo Garcia-Manero, M.D.
Professor, Leukemia
Leukemia (AML/MDS) Team
Leukemia (AML/MDS) Team

Stories of Hope: Leukemia (AML/MDS)

Kenneth Woo
AML Survivor

MD Anderson has become “like home” to three-time cancer survivor Kenneth Woo.

“I go back and visit the nurses who cared for me. They became part of my family,” says Kenneth. He’s been in remission for 10 years and volunteers with the Anderson Network support group for cancer survivors.

Kenneth’s own cancer experience began in 1993, when his doctor diagnosed him with Hodgkin disease. He immediately turned to MD Anderson for treatment. Continue reading...