Developing Cells Being Hijacked in Childhood Leukemia

Developing Cells Being Hijacked in Childhood Leukemia

Although similarities exist between childhood and adult leukemias, evidence suggests that the cancers don't share the same genetic roots. 

New research hints that childhood leukemia may be able to hijack only young, developing cells—like those found in fetuses and children—not the mature cells of full-grown adults, according to Dr. Thomas Mercher, a director of hematology-oncology research for the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and the Gustave Roussy Research Institute in Villejuif, France.

To investigate why certain leukemias may prey on immature cells, Mercher and his colleagues gathered genetic samples from both young patients and adults with a particularly aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), called acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AML-M7), and replicated the disease in mouse models. The team's study, published Oct. 29 in the journal Cancer Discovery, hints at why the cancer appears early in life, often before the affected child reaches 2 years old.

Many of the children's cells contained genes that had merged together to form new, hybrid genes. Individually, the genes play important roles in blood cell developm...

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