A research team led by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists have made a key finding which is expected to open up improved treatment possibilities for children suffering from leukaemia.
They found that two in three cases of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a type of cancer of the white blood cells, may be caused by mutations in one of the two key genes found in children. These genes are however more prevalent in those with Down syndrome.
This means that scientists can design better tailored treatment protocols, depending on which mutating gene is carried by the patient. Such treatments may include lower doses of anti-cancer drugs thus leading to fewer side effects.
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is the most common cancer in children, with 50 to 100 children diagnosed each year in Singapore. This gene discovery is good news for those with Down syndrome and the 20 per cent of children who do not respond well to standard therapy.
Children with Down syndrome have a 20 to 50 fold greater risk of developing this blood cancer. They are also prone to suffer a relapse and have a higher risk of dying from the side effects of therapy.
The discovery, made by an international team led by Professor Dean Nizetic from NTU's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, was published in the prestigious academic journal Nature Communications last week.
Prof Nizetic's team of experts in ageing and Down syndrome collaborated with researchers from the Queen Mary University in London and the universities of Geneva and Padua on this study.
"By analysing the DNA sequence of patient samples at different stages of the disease, we identified mutations in two genes that turn normal blood cells into cancer cells," said Prof Nizetic, the senior author of the study.
The research team found that the two genes (RAS and JAK) never mutate together, which makes them ideal biomarkers.
"This could benefit all c
|Contact: Lester Kok|
Nanyang Technological University