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In Kids, Genes May Affect Leukemia Treatment
Date:1/27/2009

Finding could help tailor therapy regimen to individuals, experts say

TUESDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Genetic variations appear to affect the way children respond to treatment for lymphoblastic leukemia, researchers report.

Although about 80 percent of children suffering from this type of blood and bone marrow cancer are cured, some children do not respond to treatment. Now researchers think they know why.

"For the first time, we used a genome-wide strategy to interrogate over 500,000 variations in inherited DNA to find common gene variations called SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, that predicted response to chemotherapy," said lead researcher Mary V. Relling, who chairs the pharmaceutical department at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

Much of the emphasis in research on why chemotherapy works better on some people than others has focused on differences in the leukemia cells themselves, Relling noted.

"Our findings imply that the DNA patients inherit from their parents also explains why some patients respond to chemotherapy better than others," she said. "We also found some interesting genes that were previously under-appreciated and may provide new targets for new drug development."

The report is published in the Jan. 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, Relling's team studied genetic variations in 487 children with lymphoblastic leukemia. Their goal was to find evidence of disease that persisted after treatment.

The researchers found 102 SNPs associated with minimal residual disease. "A high proportion of the gene variations were related to levels of the chemotherapy in blood and in leukemia cells; some were related to leukemia cell biology," Relling said.

An equal number, 21, were also associated with blood-related relapse and with the performance of antileukemic drugs. Overall, 6
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