GAINESVILLE A multicenter team of childhood cancer researchers has discovered two genetic variations linked to an increased risk for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, the most common childhood cancer in the United States.
Because these genetic glitches point to a specific subtype of the disease, identifying them in children who already have leukemia could improve treatment, says University of Florida researcher Meenakshi Devidas, Ph.D., a co-author on the study published online Sunday in Nature Genetics. Children with this specific subtype of ALL, known as B-hyperdiploid, tend to respond well to chemotherapy.
"The findings indicated inherited genetic variants contribute to the risk of a child getting ALL and likely contribute to a specific subtype of ALL," said Devidas, a research associate professor in the department of epidemiology and health policy research in the UF College of Medicine and co-director of the Children's Oncology Group Statistics and Data Center at UF. "So far, we have known that patients with this subtype respond well to chemotherapy, but we had no idea why that was."
Led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientist Mary Relling, Pharm.D., the researchers conducted the first genomewide association study to check for genetic variations linked to the common cancer.
"This work indicates that as we approach full sequencing of cancer genomes, we should account for the fact that a gene can be made 'abnormal' via both inherited and acquired defects, and so we should not discount subtle inherited genomic variation as contributing to cancer risk," said Relling, chair of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital department of pharmaceutical sciences and the paper's senior author. "With projects such as these, our collaboration with members of the Children's Oncology Group, which provided additional cases for genetic analysis, helped strengthen our findings."
To identify these genetic varia
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University of Florida