One of the main types of blood cancer is not one but 11 distinct diseases, detailed genetic analysis suggests.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found genetic differences explain why some patients respond much better to treatment than others.
The researchers say their findings should help with the development of clinical trials.
Cancer Research UK says this type of study offers new insights into cancer.
The study focused on Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) – there are around 3,000 new cases every year in the UK.
The disease is often aggressive, particularly in older patients – overall survival after five years is about 20%.
Treatment is predominantly chemotherapy and stem-cell transplantation but for many patients it can be difficult to tell how they will respond.
Clinicians currently rely on checks for chromosomal abnormalities and analysis under a microscope. In this study – involving more than 1,500 patients – researchers carried out a far more detailed genetic analysis of the cancer.
They looked at more than 100 genes known to cause leukaemia, and investigated how they interacted.
They found the patients divided into at least 11 major groups, each with their own set of genetic changes and clinical features.
Dr Peter Campbell from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who co-led the research, said the findings would help doctors to make “very meaningful predictions” about what will happen to patients.
“I could have two patients who had what looked like the same leukaemia under the microscope and I could treat them with exactly the same therapy.
When you have the full genetic information about the patient’s leukaemia you can make very meaningful statements about whether that patient is likely to be cured or or likely to dieDr Peter Campbell, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
“One of those patients would be cured and one would relapse and die …read more
Source:: BBC UK