ALL risk genes give new understanding of leukemia biology

Memphis, Tennessee, November 25, 2019

Dr. Jun J. Yang reading research at table. Windows with sun shining behind him.

Dr. Jun Yang, corresponding author of the Nature Communications paper.

An international collaboration led by St. Jude and the Institute for Cancer Research UK identified new genetic associations for B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) risk.

The team pooled data from throughout the U.S. and Europe to make one of the largest groups of samples ever assembled for ALL.

The researchers focused on the most common subtypes of ALL. This included hyperdiploid ALL, which involves extra chromosomes, and ETV6-RUNX1 fusion-positive ALL, which is caused when two chromosomes join.

In the ETV6-RUNX1 subtype, the researchers found a variant in a gene that is normally switched off after birth. The ETV6-RUNX1 fusion turns the gene back on.

In hyperdiploid ALL, the researchers found a variant in a different gene. This variant is also found in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This leukemia occurs only in adults.

“We hope others will start looking at these genes to figure out why they are important to leukemia, leading to the development of new therapies,” said Jun J. Yang, Ph.D., of the Departments of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Oncology.

Nature Communications published this work.

Read the full News Release.

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