Genetic Variations Found in ALL Patients of Different Ethnicities

CURE, Summer 2013, Volume 12, Issue 2

A new study pinpoints why Hispanic children are at increased risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

For the most part, the increased incidence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) among certain ethnic groups and the disease's connection to inherited genes has not been studied in any significant way. To underscore this fact, a recent study led by researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., suggested that genome-wide association studies lack diversity, with 96 percent of the subjects participating in the studies being of European descent.

By performing a multi-ethnic study that included 2,450 ALL pediatric patients and 10,977 participants without ALL, St. Jude researchers identified variations in four genes inherited by children that gave them a substantially increased risk of developing ALL, a common childhood cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The research noted that Hispanic children were more likely to inherit two such genes than patients of European or African descent. This genetic variation may explain why Hispanic children are more at risk of developing ALL than children of other ethnic backgrounds.

The study, which was published in a recent online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, is considered a step forward in understanding the causes of ALL in children.