Leukemia Linked to Changes in Womb

Genetic changes that may initiate childhood leukemia could originate while the baby is still in utero.

Apr 10, 2013
Edyta Zielinska

Ultrasound of a pair of twins in uteroWIKIMEDIA, ENTROPY 1963Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Researcher in London honed in on a single mutation occurring in two identical twins. The mutation, the scientists reasoned, must have arisen in the womb, according to research published this week (April 8) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Studies like this could reveal new ways to target the very roots of cancer and help us better understand how the disease develops over time,” Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK told BBC News.

The researchers sequenced the genomes of leukemic cells in a pair of twins with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of leukemia in children. The team identified one mutation in a known leukemia-causing gene that was shared by the twins, as well as another 22 leukemia-related mutations that were not shared. The authors suggested that the mutation might have arisen in one twin and was passed to the other in the womb through a shared placenta.