New DNA technology may improve the treatment of aggressive childhood cancer

July 31, 2014, Karolinska Institutet

Neuroblastoma, a form of cancer, is the most common childhood tumour outside of the brain, and the one that has been the most difficult to treat. Researchers have now been able, using high-resolution DNA technology, to develop a new method for analysing the genes that cause relapses into this disease. Their results are presented in the scientific journal Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Neuroblastoma occurs in infants, originating in the autonomic nervous system. The treatment of this disease is adapted to the genetics of the at the time of diagnosis, and often entail a poor prognosis. Earlier research has indicated that changes in the ALK gene, which controls the division rate of cancer cells, affect the risk of both occurrence and reoccurrence of neuroblastomas.

With the help of a significantly improved analysis method, which is based on an extremely sensitive DNA sequencing technology, the researchers have now succeeded in identifying a number of specific genetic changes that influence the risk of reoccurrence. This may lead to new treatments for children suffering from , as pharmaceutical companies have recently developed drugs that target the mutated ALK gene, i.e., ALK inhibitors. This treatment could prove successful in patients with neuroblastomas, for whom relapses are caused by a mutation in the ALK gene.

"These results indicate that the testing, analysis and treatment of these children with neuroblastomas has to be changed," says Per Kogner, professor at Karolinska Institutet and paediatric oncologist at the Karolinska University Hospital Astrid Lindgren Children's Hospital,

According to Per Kogner, one of the conclusions to draw is that samples of the tumour should be taken to check for possible ALK mutations both when the patient is first diagnosed and at any subsequent relapses. The samples should also be analysed using high-resolution DNA sequencing technology, and patients should be given the opportunity to take part in studies and treatments with ALK inhibitors.

"Several Swedish children with neuroblastomas have already been treated with ALK inhibitors, and the initial results have been promising," says Per Kogner. This brings new hope for families with children suffering from neuroblastomas, whose relapses have not always been halted by previously available therapies.

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

More information: "Emergence of new ALK mutations at relapse of neuroblastoma." Schleiermacher G, Javanmardi N, Bernard V, Leroy Q, Cappo, Frio TR, Pierron G, Lapouble E, Combaret V, Speleman F, de Wilde B, Djos A, Øra I, Hedborg F, Träger C, Holmqvist BM, Abrahamsson J, Peuchmaur M, Michon J, Janoueix-Lerosey I, Kogner P, Delattre O, Martinsson T. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 28 July 2014, DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2013.54.0674

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.

Tumors evolve rapidly in a childhood cancer, leaving fewer obvious tumor targets

January 20, 2013
An extensive genomic study of the childhood cancer neuroblastoma reinforces the challenges in treating the most aggressive forms of this disease. Contrary to expectations, the scientists found relatively few recurrent gene ...

Neuroblastoma patients with ARID1A and ARID1B mutations have more aggressive disease

December 2, 2012
In a genome sequencing study of 74 neuroblastoma tumors in children, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) found that patients with changes in two genes, ARID1A ...

Tumors with ALK rearrangements can harbor more mutations

April 22, 2013
The identification of potentially targetable kinase mutations has been an exciting advancement in lung cancer treatment. Although the mutations driving many lung carcinomas remain unknown, approximately 50 percent of lung ...

Recommended for you

Study involving hundreds of patient samples may reveal new treatment options of leukemia

October 17, 2018
After more than five years and 672 patient samples, an OHSU research team has published the largest cancer dataset of its kind for a form of leukemia. The study, "Functional Genomic Landscape of Acute Myeloid Leukemia", published ...

A 150-year-old drug might improve radiation therapy for cancer

October 17, 2018
A drug first identified 150 years ago and used as a smooth-muscle relaxant might make tumors more sensitive to radiation therapy, according to a recent study led by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer ...

Loss of protein p53 helps cancer cells multiply in 'unfavourable' conditions

October 17, 2018
Researchers have discovered a novel consequence of loss of the tumour protein p53 that promotes cancer development, according to new findings in eLife.

New method uses just a drop of blood to monitor lung cancer treatment

October 17, 2018
Dr. Tasuku Honjo won the 2018 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discovering the immune T-cell protein PD-1. This discovery led to a set of anti-cancer medications called checkpoint inhibitors, one of the first of ...

Gene screening technique helps identify genes involved in a fatty liver-associated liver cancer

October 17, 2018
With an estimated twenty-thousand protein-coding genes in the human genome, pinpointing a specific gene or pathway responsible for a particular disease can be like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack. This has certainly ...

Scientists zero in on ways to boost colorectal cancer screening

October 17, 2018
A comprehensive analysis by University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers evaluated more than 70 clinical studies to identify some of the most effective methods for boosting U.S. colorectal ...

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.