Fourth ALL predisposition gene discovered

Memphis, Tennessee, April 19, 2018

Charles Mullighan, MBBS, MD; Michelle Churchman, PhD; Max Qian, PhD; and Jun Yang, PhD

From left: Charles Mullighan, MBBS, MD; Michelle Churchman, PhD; Max Qian, PhD; and Jun Yang, PhD

St. Jude researchers have discovered a fourth gene that can predispose carriers to childhood leukemia. The finding expands the list of genes clinicians should include in cancer screening.

The gene, IKZF1, can increase an individual’s susceptibility to B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The discovery comes a decade after Charles Mullighan, MBBS, MD, of St. Jude Pathology, and his colleagues reported that IKZF1 was often mutated in leukemic cells and was a sign of poor treatment outcomes.

In the recent study, scientists analyzed data from almost 5,000 young ALL patients and found that 0.9% of patients with B-cell ALL had inherited variations in IKZF1. The researchers also learned that inherited gene variations can affect how well leukemia cells react to chemotherapy drugs. Results of the study will help genetic counselors as they educate families about cancer risks.

A report on the findings appeared in the journal Cancer Cell.

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