Gene sequencing – a Vision to Cure

11 September 2020 -

Members of the research team in the LBCRU lab


Blood cancers, like all other cancers, are caused by mutations in genes (the building blocks of our cells).

Studies have shown that the type and number of mutations can vary greatly from patient to patient even though their cancer cells may look almost identical under the microscope.

Identifying particular mutations in an individual’s blood cancer is critical as it dictates how the cancer behaves, and how it will respond to treatment.

A year ago, only three genes were routinely analysed for mutations in blood cancer patients in most New Zealand hospitals. This meant that doctors had very limited insight into the spectrum of mutations that might have important consequences for the clinical course of the cancer, and help identify the best treatment plan for their patients.

With the support of donations from thousands of caring Kiwis like you, scientists at Leukaemia and Blood Cancer Research Unit (LBCRU) have developed a new test, which looks for mutations in 78 genes using a “Next Generation Sequencing” platform.

More than 100 patient samples, including 70 with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), have been tested. So far results have shown that no two patients have exactly the same mutations even though their clinical symptoms may be similar.

The research team have successfully rolled-out the Myeloid Gene Panel for Auckland patients and are working to make the test available for all New Zealanders with myeloid blood cancers. As part of the ongoing research project they are also planning to develop a gene panel for patients with lymphoid blood cancers. It is hoped that rolling out the gene panels to patients across New Zealand will enable doctors to make more informed decisions about patient treatment and ultimately lead to better outcomes for patients.