New Types of Childhood Leukemia Discovered

Next-generation sequencing technology sheds new light on childhood leukemia.

Researchers in a recent study found 2 new types of childhood leukemia by analyzing the genome of cancer cells using next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology.

Though rare, acute lymphoblastic leukemia is quite common among children. Treatment is typically successful, but the heavy intervention needed for treatment can cause side effects.

According to a study published in Nature Communications, distinguishing different types of leukemia is necessary to adapt treatment and detect potential relapses.

"Like all types of cancer, childhood leukemia is caused by genetic mutations in normal cells, which are then transformed into cancer cells,” said principal researcher Thoas Fioretos, MD, PhD. “Finding the critical mutations in the diseased cells is an important condition for understanding the mechanisms of the disease and ultimately discovering new therapies.”

Researchers used NGS technology to see the different changes in cancer cells, which revealed 2 new types of leukemia.

"One type occurs when a gene called DUX4, which is normally inactive in blood cells, becomes activated when the gene is relocated in the genome," said researcher Henrik Lilljebjörn. “The second type resembles a previously known type of childhood leukemia, but is caused by other genetic mutations.”

The new types of leukemia account for 10% of all childhood leukemia diagnoses, according to the study. The researchers hope the findings from their study will improve diagnoses and monitoring of childhood leukemia.