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Massive DNA search uncovers new mutations driving blood cancer
Date:12/12/2011

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SAN DIEGO -- The most comprehensive search to date of DNA abnormalities in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) has unearthed several new altered genes that drive this common blood cancer, a finding that could potentially help doctors predict whether an individual patient's disease will progress rapidly or remain indolent for years, say scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute.

Using powerful "next-generation" DNA sequencing, the teams identified nine frequently mutated genes across 91 patients. Catherine J. Wu, MD, of Dana-Farber, a co-senior author of the report, says five of the mutated genes are implicated in CLL for the first time.

Wu says that mutations in one of the new genes, SF3B1, interfere with gene splicing, or "editing" of RNA messages that form a genetic template the cell uses to build a specified protein. "We have identified a new cancer pathway aberrant RNA splicing that has been underappreciated," says Wu, a researcher in Dana-Farber's Cancer Vaccine Center.

An advanced online publication has been scheduled for Dec. 12 by the New England Journal of Medicine, to coincide with a presentation of the results (abstract 463) at the American Society of Hematology's 2011 annual meeting on Monday, Dec. 12 at 10:30 a.m. PST.

The study's other two co-senior authors are Jennifer Brown, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Gad Getz, PhD, of the Broad Institute, where the sequencing search was carried out.

CLL is the most common form of leukemia. The American Cancer Society expects it will be diagnosed in 14,570 patients in 2011, and projects 4,380 deaths. The behavior of the disease differs widely among patients. About half the time, CLL is aggressive, worsening steadily and rapidly, often with fatal outcomes. In many other patients, the leukemia is said to be "indolent," causing few symptoms for years
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Contact: Teresa Herbert
teresa_herbert@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-4090
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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