Whole-genome scan helps select best treatment for childhood cancer

September 14, 2012

A whole-genome scan to identify large-scale chromosomal damage can help doctors choose the best treatment option for children with neuroblastoma, one of the most common types of childhood cancer, finds an international collaboration jointly led by The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

The researchers called for all children diagnosed with neuroblastoma worldwide to have a whole-genome scan as a standard part of their treatment.

Neuroblastoma, a cancer of the developing nervous system, is sometimes very treatable but other forms are highly aggressive, making the disease overall one of the leading causes of death from . As intense treatments can carry life-long side-effects, identifying the form is crucial in giving an accurate and deciding the most appropriate care.

Scientists examined the medical records of 8,800 neuroblastoma patients from around the world and found that several large-scale were strongly linked to , and that a whole-genome scan would therefore be more effective at predicting prognosis than tests for individual . The study is published in the today.

Senior author Professor Andy Pearson, Cancer Research UK professor of paediatric oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research and a paediatric consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Our study has found that every single patient diagnosed with neuroblastoma should have a whole genome assessment. The technology required to carry out these scans has become much more widely available and cheaper over recent years, and we believe most diagnostic labs in developed countries worldwide should have this capacity. These gene tests would help doctors provide a more accurate prognosis and decide the best treatment for their patients, which could potentially save more lives and spare other children the risk of serious side-effects."

The study builds on earlier work by the same international team, called the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group, who proposed classifying tumours based on 13 characteristics including the status of three genetic alterations (ploidy, MYCN and the segmental gene alteration 11q). Since the system was introduced four years ago, scientists' understanding of the genetic causes of aggressive neuroblastoma has improved and evidence has emerged of a number of other mutations that may be relevant to the disease.

The new study links two further segmental gene alterations - mutations that involve the duplication or deletion of large sections of DNA – to patient survival, specifically 1p status and 17q status. It further concluded that scanning the whole genome provided the most prognostic information, as it took all these factors into account along with less frequent but important genetic changes that also had an impact on survival. The team is now planning to update the official classification system to incorporate the new information, which should improve the personalised approach to therapy for neuroblastoma.

Explore further: Scientists develop new strategy to overcome drug-resistant childhood cancer

Related Stories

Scientists develop new strategy to overcome drug-resistant childhood cancer

July 11, 2012
A new drug combination could offer hope to children with neuroblastoma – one of the deadliest forms of childhood cancer – by boosting the effectiveness of a promising new gene-targeted treatment.

Study finds association between genetic mutation and age at diagnosis for common childhood cancer

March 13, 2012
Certain mutations of the gene ATRX were associated with age at diagnosis in children and young adults with advanced-stage neuroblastoma, a cancer that grows in parts of the nervous system, according to a study in the March ...

New gene variants raise risk of neuroblastoma, influence tumor progression

September 4, 2012
Researchers have discovered two gene variants that raise the risk of the pediatric cancer neuroblastoma. Using automated technology to perform genome-wide association studies on DNA from thousands of subjects, the study broadens ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover a new target for 'triple-negative' breast cancer

November 20, 2017
So-called "triple-negative" breast cancer is a particularly aggressive and difficult-to-treat form. It accounts for only about 10 percent of breast cancer cases, but is responsible for about 25 percent of breast cancer fatalities.

Study reveals new mechanism used by cancer cells to disarm attacking immune cells

November 20, 2017
A new study by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC - James) identifies a substance released by pancreatic cancer cells that protects ...

Clinical trial suggests new cell therapy for relapsed leukemia patients

November 20, 2017
A significant proportion of children and young adults with treatment-resistant B-cell leukemia who participated in a small study achieved remission with the help of a new form of gene therapy, according to researchers at ...

Cell-weighing method could help doctors choose cancer drugs

November 20, 2017
Doctors have many drugs available to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. However, there is no way to predict, by genetic markers or other means, how a patient will respond to a particular drug. This can lead to ...

Lung cancer triggers pulmonary hypertension

November 17, 2017
Shortness of breath and respiratory distress often increase the suffering of advanced-stage lung cancer patients. These symptoms can be triggered by pulmonary hypertension, as scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart ...

Researchers discover an Achilles heel in a lethal leukemia

November 16, 2017
Researchers have discovered how a linkage between two proteins in acute myeloid leukemia enables cancer cells to resist chemotherapy and showed that disrupting the linkage could render the cells vulnerable to treatment. St. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.