A new genetic defect that predisposes people to acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplasia has been discovered. The mutations were found in the GATA2 gene. Among its several regulatory roles, the gene acts as a master control during the transition of primitive blood-forming cells into white blood cells.
The researchers started by studying four unrelated families who, over generations, have had several relatives with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of blood cancer. Their disease onset occurred from the teens to the early 40s. The course was rapid.
The findings will be reported Sept. 4 in Nature Genetics. The results come from an international collaboration of scientists and the participation of families from Australia, Canada, and the United States.
In collaboration with Dr. Hamish Scott and Dr. Richard J. D'Andrea at the Centre for Cancer Biology, University of Australia, Adelaide, the U.S. portion of the study was conducted by Dr. Marshall Horwitz, University of Washington (UW) professor of pathology. Horwitz practices genetic medicine at UW Medical Center and the UW Center for Human Development and Disability, both in Seattle.
The genetic mutation was first discovered in a patient from central Washington. The research participant had been successfully treated for leukemia in 1992 through a bone marrow transplant at UW Medical Center. At that time, Horwitz decided to seek a possible genetic reason after learning his patient had several family members with myelodysplastic syndrome, myeloid leukemia, and intractable mycobacteria infections.
Myelodysplastic syndrome is a difficulty in producing certain kinds of blood cells. The problem originates in the bone marrow with a decline in the number and quality of blood-forming cells. Patients often have severe anemia and need frequent blood transfusions. The disease generally worsens due to bone marrow failure and low blood counts. About one- third of
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University of Washington