Researchers identify genes that may be associated with prognosis in pediatric leukemia

(WASHINGTON, DC, August 25, 2003) A panel of 35 genes have been identified whose expression may be associated with prognosis and response to treatment in pediatric patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), according to a study published in the September 1st issue of Blood. At the time of diagnosis, hematologists may be able to use these genes to predict pediatric patient outcomes. Additionally, these genes and their pathways may serve as molecular targets for new therapeutic strategies to prevent relapse of pediatric AML.

AML occurs in both children and adults, although there are some distinct characteristics that distinguish pediatric and adult AML. In children, the primary treatment for AML is chemotherapy, sometimes followed by bone marrow/stem cell transplantation. Most patients with AML enter complete remission after treatment with chemotherapy, but a large number of patients relapse with resistant disease. The prediction of a patient's risk of treatment failure, or even disease relapse, at the time of diagnosis is important for the optimum selection of treatment strategies, such as additional rounds of conventional chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation, or novel experimental therapies.

The 35 genes found were unexpected, and did not correspond to known prognostic genes. Moreover, they were identified independently of currently used classification methods, such as microscopic appearance or specific cytogenetic abnormalities. Additional factors associated with poor prognosis are advanced age, high white blood cell count, extramedullary mass, and a history of blood disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndrome.

Researchers from the Cancer Genomics Division of the National Cancer Center Research Institute in Tokyo, Japan, enrolled 54 pediatric AML patients, all less than 15 years of age. Samples of either bone marrow or peripheral blood were collected and classified at the time of diagnosis. Patients in the study were t

Contact: Aimee Frank
American Society of Hematology

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