The researchers reported additional genetic links in Nature Genetics in May. The team discovered that on the gene called BARD1, six single-nucleotide polymorphisms variations in tiny pieces of DNA were also associated with neuroblastoma.
"Only two years ago we had very little idea of what causes neuroblastoma," said Maris, who led both studies. "Now we have unlocked a lot of the mystery of why neuroblastoma arises in some children and not in others."
Although neuroblastoma is one of the more common childhood cancers, it is relatively rare overall when compared with more common adult cancers, which has proved to be a challenge for researchers trying to uncover its causes, said Peter Zage, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Children's Cancer Hospital at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
"Dr. Maris' group has been able to collect a relatively large number of cases for a neuroblastoma study and so has been able to identify these genetic variations and specific genes to provide us with some new avenues for therapy that we probably would not have been able to identify looking at the smaller cohorts of patients we each see at our individual institutions. In that sense, it's certainly an amazing leap forward in our understanding of the disease."
The discovery does hold promise for developing treatments, but London cautions that these potential "targeted therapies" won't work on all neuroblastoma patients. Not all neuroblastoma patients have this particular genetic anomaly, and not all children with this anomaly will develop neuroblastoma. Development of neuroblastoma is complicated and can occur b
|Contact: April Frawley Birdwell|
University of Florida