Menu

Prevalent Form of Childhood Leukemia May Be Preventable

Early exposure to common microbes could stop leukemia from manifesting in children.

May 22, 2018
Sukanya Charuchandra

ISTOCK, FATCAMERAAn analysis of more than 30 years of research has revealed the underlying cause of the most common form of leukemia in children. Research compiled in Nature Reviews Cancer on May 21 suggests that acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) occurs by a two-step process—first, a mutation occurs in the fetus and a second mutation, later in life and triggered by infection, spurs the cancer to develop.

“The most important implication is that most cases of childhood leukemia are likely to be preventable,” Melvyn Greaves, a cancer biologist at the Institute of Cancer Research in the U.K. and the author of the paper, says in a statement.

Only 1 percent of children born with an ALL-related mutation go on to have the disease. The ones who do have had little experience with common infections such as the flu in their formative years, according to Greaves. This lack of immune priming predisposes them to a genetic change caused by a later infection and, ultimately, causes the disease, Greaves proposes in his paper.

See “Researchers Publish First Pan-Cancer Genomic Analyses in Pediatric Patients

Greaves collated research from the fields of genetics, cell biology, immunology, and epidemiology. Further, experiments in mice support his conclusions. Mice with leukemia-initiating mutations born into a sterile environment developed ALL only when they were transferred to unclean surroundings.

“This research sheds light on how a form of childhood blood cancer might develop, implicating a complex combination of genetics and early exposure to germs, dirt and illness,” Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, tells The Independent.

See “Cancer Evolutionist: A Profile of Charles Swanton

While 90 percent of children with ALL are cured by chemotherapy, it can leave lasting effects. ALL cases are growing by 1 percent every year, mostly in richer nations, according to Greaves, who tells The Guardian, “The problem is lack of infection.” He says social contact might expose young children born with mutations that predispose them to ALL to harmless infections that may prevent leukemia at a later stage. He is now testing this theory of early exposure to common bacteria and viruses in mutant mice.

Donna Lancaster, a pediatric oncologist in the National Health Service in the U.K., tells New Scientist this “needs further investigation and any exposure of young children to infection has to be balanced with the risk of the infection.”

February 2019

Big Storms Brewing

Can forests weather more major hurricanes?

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb), a global leader of life science research and clinical diagnostic products, today announced that its QXDx AutoDG ddPCR System, which uses Bio-Rad’s Droplet Digital PCR technology, and the QXDx BCR-ABL %IS Kit are the industry’s first digital PCR products to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. Used together, Bio-Rad’s system and kit can precisely and reproducibly monitor molecular response to treatment in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb) today showcases new automation features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer during the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening 2019 International Conference and Exhibition (SLAS) in Washington, D.C., February 2–6. These capabilities enable the ZE5 to be used for high-throughput flow cytometry in biomarker discovery and phenotypic screening.
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Researchers to benefit from an innovative software-connected pipetting system, bringing improved reproducibility and traceability of experiments to life-science laboratories.
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW) will showcase advanced 3D cell culture technologies and workflow solutions for spheroids, organoids, tissue models, and applications including ADME/toxicology at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) conference, Feb. 2-6 in Washington, D.C.