Brian Van Ness of the University of Minnesota identified combinations of genes associated with early clinical relapse of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells that produce antibodies.
The results raise the possibility a patient's genetic background exerts an important influence on the patient's prognosis and response to treatment, Van Ness said.
Van Ness and colleagues used genetic information that the International Myeloma Foundation has gathered from myeloma patients worldwide. The University of Minnesota houses one of the program's two DNA banks.
The findings, published in the BMC Medicine, demonstrate that cancer outcomes differ because patients vary in the ways they absorb, distribute, metabolize and transport drugs across cell membranes. Individual variations in genes that regulate these biologic processes may not only affect the effectiveness of the drug, but also can result in adverse side effects, Van Ness said.
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