Genetic Discovery Suggests Some Aspects of Childhood Leukemia Inherited

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The discovery of a pair of genetic variants suggests that both susceptibility and survival of childhood leukemia can be inherited.

Investigators from London's Institute of Cancer Research, reporting in Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology, looked at the genomes of more than 1,500 children diagnosed with leukemia as well as those of 4,500 healthy children.

They found a strong link between two common DNA copying errors, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and susceptibility to leukemia. One of the SNPs has been linked to higher rates of relapse and poorer outcomes, while the other has previously been linked to a difficult-to-treat subtype of the most common form of childhood leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Linking Genes to Treatment

While the cure rate, or five-year survival rate, for ALL hovers around 85 percent, there are still too many young patients who don't respond to the long-term, aggressive therapy established for the disease, and no consensus exists for treatment for this subset.

Said Chris Bunce, research director at Leukemia and Lymphoma Research, the organization funding the study:

These findings provide further insights into the genetic and biological basis of inherited genetic susceptibility to childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. By understanding how different genetic variations determine cancer subtype, we can tailor treatment accordingly.

These findings, coupled with other findings from the research institute in London as well as St. Jude's Children's Hospital in the US, give hope that soon new drugs and/or therapies will help all children with leukemia beat the disease.

Source: Blood

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