"Some of the gene variation is likely to cause differences among patients in how quickly their bodies rid themselves of the chemotherapy, and some of the variations are likely to penetrate through to the leukemia cells and have an influence on the inherent sensitivity of the leukemia cells to chemotherapy," Relling said.
Knowing the genetics of patients and knowing the genetics of their tumors are both important in designing effective treatments, she explained.
"When modern genomics is used to try to personalize medication regimens for cancer, we will need to consider the genetic variation that each patient has inherited, in addition to the genetic variation that is unique to the tumor cells," Relling said. "It will be necessary to continue to do genomic research in as many patients with cancer as possible in order to be able to apply these results in the future."
Dr. Barton Kamen, chief medical officer of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, noted that almost 20 percent of children treated for lymphoblastic leukemia suffer cognitive damage from chemotherapy.
"The problem is that the high cure rate of lymphoblastic leukemia still has a price," Kamen said. But knowing the genetic makeup of people and their disease, he said, might make it possible to make treatment less toxic by using lower doses for a shorter time.
In addition, knowing the genetic makeup of children with lymphoblastic leukemia "might point to the reasons for the failure of treatment so we can do something better for the 20 percent of the kids who are destined to fail," Kamen said.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on childhood leukemia.
All rights reserved