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ASH: Gene Findings May Benefit Infants With Leukemia

Newly discovered translocations may improve treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia

MONDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- In infants with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, newly discovered translocations of the MLL gene on chromosome 11 may help guide treatment decisions, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, held from Dec. 5 to 8 in New Orleans.

Blaine W. Robinson, Ph.D., of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues studied 221 infants with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who were enrolled in a clinical trial.

The researchers found that 74 percent of the patients had MLL translocations in the acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells. They identified the two most common partner genes that fused with the MLL gene as AF4 on chromosome 4 and ENL on chromosome 19, and found that event-free survival associated with these translocations was 34 and 29 percent, respectively. By contrast, children with the third most common partner gene, AF9, and children whose MLL gene was unaffected had significantly higher event-free survival rates (68 and 66 percent, respectively).

"Our ability to classify acute lymphoblastic leukemia based on specific partner genes of MLL may provide a new way to categorize which infants might benefit from specific types of treatment," senior author Carolyn A. Felix, M.D., said in a statement. "We also hope these findings will contribute to the development of new, molecularly targeted therapies for infants with this grim form of cancer that we seek to conquer."

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