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Missing DNA Fragments Point to Child Leukaemia Relapse

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Australian researchers have developed a new risk-scoring system for children with leukaemia that will allow doctors to predict the chance of relapse of a subgroup of children currently hidden in a lower risk group.

The researchers discovered that the presence of specific gene microdeletions found only in leukaemia, when combined with two other tests, provided a more accurate way to categorise patient risk.

The study, published in the British Journal of Haematology, tested 475 children with non-high-risk B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (BCP-ALL), a subtype of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common childhood cancer with survival rates typically near 90%.

“Children in the standard and medium-risk category in the study were given less intensive treatment than high-risk patients, but about one in six of them relapsed,” said study leader A/Prof Rosemary Sutton of the Children’s Cancer Institute. “Obviously, some children needed more intensive treatment than previously thought, but which ones?”

The researchers developed a new risk score that builds on the minimal residual disease (MRD) test, which can detect just one cancer cell in a million bone marrow cells surviving cancer treatment. MRD alerted doctors that some children with leukaemia on the trial had a very high risk of relapsing. Consequently they were treated...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.