ALL is the most common form of cancer in children, with 3,000 children and young adults being diagnosed each year in the United States.
Dr. Offit hopes that ongoing research will also determine what percentage of childhood ALL patients have the PAX5 mutation. Current estimates suggest that it is rare. Additionally, the newly discovered gene mutation may someday help scientists determine how to target transcription factors to treat other non-inherited forms of leukemia where the PAX5 mutation is present.
“With a better understanding of the genetic elements that induce cancer susceptibility, or drive cancer to grow, we can more precisely target therapy as well as potentially prevent cancer from occurring in the first place,” added Dr. Offit.
Kenneth Offit, MD, MPH, Chief of the Clinical Genetics Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. “At the very least this discovery gives us a new window into inherited causes of childhood leukemia. More immediately, testing for this mutation may allow affected families to prevent leukemia in future generations.