Gene for most common childhood cancer identified

stained ALL leukemia bone marrow cells

An aberrant gene has been found to cause the most common childhood cancer in the world, pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL.

The gene, PAX5, has long been known to be involved in ALL. The new study indicates a mutation in the gene alone is sufficient to eventually cause the disease. ALL affects nearly 3,000 children and teenagers in the United States each year.

The discovery should make it possible to screen for the gene in families with a history of the disease and suggests new strategies for treating the disease, said Dr. Marshall Horwitz, professor of pathology and of medicine at the University of Washington. He is a co-author of the new study.

He was joined in the study by researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee led by Dr. Charles Mullighan; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City led by Dr. Kenneth Offit, and others at the UW. The results were published Sept. 8 in the journalĀ Nature Genetics.

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