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SOM Student Ann Mercurio Publishes Research in JAMA Oncology

Research Reassesses Clinical Outcomes in Patients Undergoing Central Nervous System Tumor Treatment

August 17, 2023
SOM Student Ann Mercurio
Ann Mercurio, SOM Class of 2024

“The WHO updated its guidelines to classify CNS cancers with a new focus on genetic characteristics — a departure from former definitions based on appearance or structural traits of CNS tumor cells,” said Mercurio. “In our research, we sought to clarify the prognostic value of MGMT methylation (mMGMT), a common molecular feature of gliomas that is defined by the newest WHO guidelines. Previous studies have suggested that mMGMT results in better chemotherapy responses, but it has been difficult to determine whether mMGMT is useful as an independent prognostic factor, since it frequently occurs in combination with other characteristic genetic mutations.” 

For the study, the researchers combined data from patient populations at Columbia University Medical Center with information available from additional studies conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the European Organization of Research and Treatment of Cancer to build the largest database of gliomas that were treated with standard therapies to date. 

“In analyzing this data, we stratified gliomas based on their genetic profiles, and ultimately found that mMGMT is indeed related to response to chemotherapy, but to varying degrees in association with other mutations,” said Mercurio. “This finding is significant in that physicians may be able to consider mMGMT as a useful biomarker for evaluating prognosis among patients diagnosed with gliomas.”

Mercurio is particularly gratified to have had the opportunity to produce findings with the potential to have a real-world impact on treatment options and patient outcomes. “I was given a great deal of autonomy in designing and building the database from patient records, and over time, I developed a better sense of how to think critically and ask pertinent questions that are worth exploring through clinical research. I am passionate about oncology and plan to become an oncologist in the future, so having the opportunity to learn and contribute to advancements in the field as a medical student has been truly exciting.”