Every type of a cancer is composed of immature cells. Thanks in particular to new findings surrounding IDH proteins, however, we are chipping away at the assumption that these problematic cells cannot be altered.

Here’s what we know about IDH currently, and how new research is suggesting that knowledge may revolutionize our treatment of leukemia, and cancer in general.

1. IDH mutations raise a red flag

Since 2009, research has begun to bear out that altered metabolic activity plays a role in cancer’s origins. Isocitrate deydrogenase (IDH) is a metabolic enzyme that helps a cell break down and generate energy from the nutrients we ingest. If IDH mutates, the cell remains primitive. Remaining immature, it can multiply and lead to a cancer diagnosis.

2. It’s not limited to leukemia

IDH enzymes mutate in a wide range of blood cancers but also in solid tumor cancers, including gliomas (the most common brain cancer), melanoma, colon and lung cancer. To determine whether a tumor contains an IDH mutation, a patient must undergo genetic testing.

3. New drugs could save more from A.M.L.

Each year, roughly 50,000 people face the grim diagnosis of acute myelogenous leukemia (A.M.L.), after which fewer than 25 percent survive longer than five years. However, with A.M.L. some cells still carry their original programming, meaning they can be pressed back onto a pathway to health. In certain clinical studies of A.M.L. patients, the leukemic — or immature blood cells — can be shepherded by experimental drugs through maturity, into functioning blood cells. 15 percent of A.M.L. patients carry mutated IDH.

4. IDH-related therapy can combine for more effective care

With any treatment, from invasive surgery to immunotherapy, “the issue is durability,” says Martin Tallman, chief of Leukemia Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering. “The concern is that these people may ultimately relapse.”

 Even if a drug is targeting a precise mutation, that target is by definition always a moving one; a successful reaction may be short-lived as the tumor continues to evolve. In Tallman’s view, a cocktail of chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, targeted inhibitors or promising new drugs from clinical studies may offer blood cancer patients the best odds of recovery.