Precision medicine in myeloid malignancies


  • J. Westermann
  • L. Bullinger


  • Seminars in Cancer Biology


  • Semin Cancer Biol 84: 153-169


  • Myeloid malignancies have always been at the forefront of an improved understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of cancer. In accordance, over the last years, basic research focusing on the aberrations underlying malignant transformation of myeloid cells has provided the basis for precision medicine approaches and subsequently has led to the development of powerful therapeutic strategies. In this review article, we will recapitulate what has happened since in the 1980s the use of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), as a first targeted cancer therapy, has changed one of the deadliest leukemia subtypes, acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), into one that can be cured without classical chemotherapy today. Similarly, imatinib, the first molecularly designed cancer therapy, has revolutionized the management of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Thus, targeted treatment approaches have become the paradigm for myeloid malignancy, but many questions still remain unanswered, especially how identical mutations can be associated with different phenotypes. This might be linked to the impact of the cell of origin, gene-gene interactions, or the tumor microenvironment including the immune system. Continuous research in the field of myeloid neoplasia has started to unravel the molecular pathways that are not only crucial for initial treatment response, but also resistance of leukemia cells under therapy. Ongoing studies focusing on leukemia cell vulnerabilities do already point to novel (targetable) "Achilles heels" that can further improve myeloid cancer therapy.