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Researchers Discover Mutations In Genes That Lead To Childhood Leukemia

Update Date: Aug 14, 2014 11:12 AM EDT

Researchers have achieved a major breakthrough by discovering mutations in genes that lead to childhood leukemia of the acute lymphoblastic type - the most common childhood cancer in the world. 

The study considered children with Down's syndrome and analyzed the DNA sequence of patients at different stages of leukemia. Children with Down's syndrome are 20-50 times more prone to leukemia than other children. 

Researchers uncovered two key genes, namely RAS and JAK, that can mutate to turn normal blood cells into cancer cells. They also noted that these two genes can never mutate together, as they were observed to exclude the other. 

The findings of the study could lead to more effective treatment by targeting patient's cancer in lower doses, reducing the toxicity for the patient. The study is also a remarkable step forward in understanding the biological mechanisms causing leukemia. 

"We believe our findings are a breakthrough in understanding the underlying causes of leukaemia and eventually we hope to design more tailored and effective treatment for this cancer, with less toxic drugs and less side-effects. This could benefit all children affected by the disease and potentially even cut the number of side effect-related deaths," commented Dean Nizetic, Professor of Cellular and Molecular Biology at Queen Mary University of London, and Professor of Molecular Medicine at Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Singapore, in the press release. 

The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

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