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UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Joins National AML Trial

April 23, 2019

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the only cancer center in Pennsylvania and one of just 15 nationwide to offer a groundbreaking collaborative clinical trial for acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The Beat AML Master Clinical Trial, led by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, will test multiple targeted therapies for patients with AML, one of the most deadly forms of blood cancer and the most commonly diagnosed form of leukemia in adults.  

More than 21,000 patients are diagnosed with AML in the United States each year, and the standard therapy has remained virtually unchanged for decades—a combination of chemotherapy and, for some patients, a stem cell transplant. Many patients, particularly those over the age of 60, cannot tolerate this harsh regimen. The Beat AML trial aims to change that with a precision medicine approach. 

“AML is extremely aggressive, and clinical decisions on the appropriate therapies need to be made quickly,” said Stanley M. Marks, MD, chairman, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “To provide individualized treatment for each patient based on their genetic makeup will help us select the approach that gives the patient the best chance for a cure.” 

The Beat AML trial uses sophisticated genomic technology to identify the genetic drivers of the patient’s AML to match them with an appropriate targeted therapy. More than 490 patients have been screened to date.  

“AML is not a uniform or a single disease,” said Mounzer Agha, MD, director of the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “It encompasses wide genetic variations that we will now be able to specifically target for each patient. It gives us a whole new approach to the way we currently treat AML.” 

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and its collaborators recently presented the first data from this trial at a major cancer conference, the 60th American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting. The data showed that the trial already has met the primary endpoint, proving that with genomic technology, clinicians can identify the genetic mutations of AML patients to make a treatment decision within an unprecedented seven days. This was achieved for 95 percent of patients in the trial.  

“Our goal with this innovative trial is to deliver the right drug to the right patient at the right time, and we’re encouraged by the progress we’ve seen in the past year,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, PhD, the society’s president and chief executive officer. “The addition of a prestigious institution such as UPMC Hillman Cancer Center will help us deliver critical help to patients who urgently need better options, now.”  

The Beat AML trial at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center will be led by Michael Boyiadzis, MD, co-director of the acute leukemia program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. For more information on the trial, call Kathy O’Connell at 412-623-3083 or