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New Gene Findings Will Help Guide Treatment in Infant Leukemia
Date:12/5/2009

--In Youngest Babies, This Type of Blood Cancer Is Most Challenging--

PHILADELPHIA and NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pediatric oncologists have identified specific genes, dubbed partner genes, that fuse with another gene to drive an often-fatal form of leukemia in infants. By more accurately defining specific partner genes, researchers expect to better predict which infants may benefit from particular treatments.

Oncologists also aim to use this latest knowledge to develop new and more effective therapies for this difficult-to-treat type of blood cancer, called acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Their goal is to target treatments to specific genes and other associated factors that become abnormal because of the gene fusions.

Blaine W. Robinson, Ph.D., a research scientist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, will present research findings in infant ALL at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology on Dec. 8. His group collaborated with the Children's Oncology Group (COG), a cooperative, multicenter research organization, on this research, sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

ALL is the commonest of all the pediatric cancers. While the survival rate for children older than one year of age with ALL has increased over time with advances in chemotherapy, the outlook for infants (patients less than one year old) with the disease generally has been grim. Infants with ALL have a poor prognosis and a much higher mortality rate compared to other children, and curative treatments for them are far behind the therapy for childhood ALL.

For the majority of these high-risk infants, the problem is within the structure of a specific chromosome. In an abnormality called the MLL translocation, the MLL gene on chromosome 11 breaks and joins with any one of many different "partner" genes from other chromosomes. The rearranged genetic
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SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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