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Body Abnormalities, Childhood Cancer May Share Genes
Date:1/3/2008

Finding could help predict which children are at risk for malignancy, experts say

THURSDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Dutch scientists have discovered that children who have cancer also have more body anomalies, such as asymmetric limbs and curvature of the spine.

This suggests that the same genetic defect underlies both the cancer and the anomaly, raising hopes that genetic information may help identify individuals predisposed to develop cancer.

"This is an excellent study, with very large numbers of patients, and it shows that we're beginning to understand that there are certain genetic changes that predispose individuals to developing various cancers," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La.

"The good news in childhood cancer is that many of them are highly curable," said Brooks. Hopefully we'll be able to use the information in this study to better follow patients who have a genetic predisposition and be able to diagnose cancers sooner."

Another expert agreed.

"The authors have identified many anomalies that are more likely to be found in a group of children with cancer. Any child with cancer and an anomaly deserves a complete genetic evaluation," said Dr. Stephanie Sacharow, a medical geneticist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The study, led by Dr. Johannes Merks of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, was published in the Jan. 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Certain genetic syndromes have already been linked with an increased risk for developing childhood cancer.

For instance, Gorlin syndrome (characterized by a broad face and possibly organ deformities) is linked with an increased risk for basal cell carcinoma. Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome (associated with certain physical features and developmental abnormalities) is linked with meningioma, o
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