Children who undergo chemotherapy and survive acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) endure a 200-fold increase in the frequency of somatic mutations in their DNA, researchers from the University of Vermont Medical School reported in the July 1 issue of the journal Cancer Research. The alterations in the children’s gene sequence remain embedded within their chromosomes and may pose elevated risk for development of second malignancies and other diseases later in life, cautioned Barry A. Finette, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Vermont.
"The treatments that are used to help children defeat this disease are keeping a very large percentage of them alive," Finette said. "Pediatricians are continually monitoring these children as they live beyond five, ten, and more recently, 15 years after their ALL is in remission. We now need to be proactive about studying any long term genetic ramifications that these children may face due to the treatment therapy they endured during their bout with cancer." Finette noted that children who are cured of ALL after chemotherapy have a 5-20 times greater risk of developing secondary malignant neoplasm’s as well as other complications. Subsequent illnesses may be associated with increased changes in the patient’s genes resulting from their treatments during ALL therapy.
Finette and his team of scientists examined the frequencies of alterations found within a marker gene in the blood cells of ALL patients at four intervals, between the time they were diagnosed until after they had completed their treatments. By examining the number of T cells in the patients’ blood that contained mutations in the HPRT reporter gene, the researchers estimated how frequently chemotherapy altered the DNA sequence within that specific marker gene.
Russell Vanderboom | EurekAlert!
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