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Mayo Clinic-led researchers confirm gene variants associated with the most common adult leukemia
Date:4/20/2009

DENVER - A national team of researchers led by Mayo Clinic has found that patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are more likely to have similar DNA changes or variants in up to six genes, compared to people who do not have the cancer.

The findings, being presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, are an independent validation of an earlier European study that found a link to seven different gene variants. Six were replicated in the Mayo Clinic study.

Together, the two studies demonstrate a genetic basis for the development of CLL, the most common adult leukemia in the United States, says the study's lead investigator, statistical geneticist Susan Slager, Ph.D., an associate professor of biostatistics at Mayo Clinic.

"In our study of American patients, we replicated six out of seven gene associations that were linked to this white blood cell cancer in Europeans, and in my field this level of replication is not common," Dr. Slager says. "This is a very exciting finding, and our job now is to investigate these genes to understand how they biologically affect the development of the cancer."

"These findings could potentially lead to new treatments or even prevention of CLL, but we have a lot more work to do before we can reach that ultimate goal."

Dr. Slager estimates the risk of developing the cancer doubles if a person has any of these gene variants, but overall, that absolute risk is still very small. Four out of every 100,000 people develop CLL, so having the variant genes could increase risk to eight out of every 100,000 people, she says.

Although CLL can be generally controlled, it is considered an incurable cancer, she says. Researchers from across the country collaborated with Dr. Slager and her team to collect genetic information on 399 CLL patients and 632 participants who did not have the cancer. Within the group of CLL patients, 99 were from high-
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Contact: Karl Oestreich
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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