Important Breakthrough for Childhood Leukemia Research

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Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an aggressive form of blood cancer that affects children and adults alike and has a particularly poor survival rate. At the moment, there is not differentiated treatment, though scientists from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cancer Sciences now suggest the disease does show several specific features depending on the age of the patient.

Our work has identified a distinct pediatric gene profile and paediatric gene targets; and by identifying targetable features of the disease in children, we can pursue new and better strategies to treat paediatric AML”, noted Dr. Karen Keeshan.

Even with the most intensive courses of chemotherapy, about one third of children still relapse, and when the cancer returns, it is often fatal. Furthermore, chemo also presents a considerable risk of causing serious and long lasting side effects in young patients.

The research team discovered and modelled a distinct biology for pediatric AML. Their investigation determined that young cells induce myeloid, lymphoid or mixed phenotype acute leukaemia, as opposed to adult cells which give rise exclusively to AML, with a shorter latency. “Unlike adult, young AML cells do not remodel the bone marrow stroma”. Among all tested genes, it seems RGS10 and FAM26F are the two that offer the most significant prognostic potential.

Dr. Keeshan’s work will hopefully lead to better targeted treatments which would not only improve outcomes, but may also be associated with fewer side effects. Improving care and quality of life is very important, especially for younger patients.

Currently, AML accounts for approximately 20% of all leukemia cases.