Whole-Genome Scan May Help Determine Best Treatment for Neuroblastoma

Katherine Lagomarsino

CURE, Winter 2012, Volume 11, Issue 4

Whole-genome scan may help determine best treatment for neuroblastoma.

Better outcomes from one of the deadliest forms of childhood cancer might be achieved through sequencing the entire DNA of patients, according to an international study led by The Institute of Cancer Research in London.

Researchers studied the medical records of 8,800 neuroblastoma patients from all over the globe and found that in addition to the known adverse marker MYCN oncogene amplification, additional genetic mutations that may determine survival rates.

Neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerve cells that most often occurs in children under age 10 and is the most common tumor in infants younger than a year old, can be highly treatable or very deadly, depending on the form of the disease, along with other factors such as the patient’s age and stage of disease at the time of diagnosis. The study found that patients with multiple chromosomal deletions, resulting in large-scale genetic mutations, had poorer outcomes than those without. That knowledge has the potential to help doctors decide the best course of treatment for patients, as well as avoid unnecessary therapies that have long-term side effects.

The study’s results highlight the necessity for whole-genome scanning that can uncover segments of genetic faults, unlike tests that reveal individual genetic factors. The study also advances the movement towards personalized medicine.