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Mutations in a certain gene can be used to predict a relapse in sufferers of the most common childhood cancer, US scientists have announced.
Researchers said that although further research is needed to determine how changes in the ikaros gene lead to a recurrence of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the discovery can be used to tailor treatment by assessing the risk of failure.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was carried out by experts from St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, the University of New Mexico Cancer Research and Treatment Centre, Albuquerque and the National Cancer Institute.
They claim that by using a molecular test to identify this genetic marker in ALL sufferers, doctors will be better able to assign patients to appropriate therapies.
Though treatments for ALL – a cancer of the white blood cells – have a cure rate of 80%, only 30% of children who experience a relapse survive five years.
Lead investigator Dr Stephen Hunger said: “Great progress has been made in recent years in improving the cure rate of childhood ALL.
“The findings of this study help us further subdivide those patients who are unlikely to be cured, and identify patients in whom different therapies should be tested.”
Copyright Press Association 2009