Gene found in children’s cancer

    Researchers in Philadelphia have uncovered a gene that causes the most common cancer in babies. There findings were published just yesterday (8/24), but a drug treatment may already be on its way. From WHYY’s health and science desk Kerry Grens reports.

    Researchers in Philadelphia have uncovered a gene that causes the most common cancer in babies. There findings were published just yesterday (8/24), but a drug treatment may already be on its way. From WHYY’s health and science desk Kerry Grens reports.

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    Neuroblastoma is a devastating cancer of the nervous system that is often lethal for children who are diagnosed with it. Yael Mosse at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and her colleagues scanned through the genomes of twenty families plagued by this rare disease to find any genes responsible.

    Mosse: We found mutations in the alk gene and alk is in fact an oncogene. So when this gene is mutated when the sequence goes wrong it is activated to promote cancer growth.

    Mosse says the finding was fantastic luck. It turns out this alk gene is also involved in lymphoma and some lung cancers, and a drug to stop the gene from overacting is already in clinical trials.

    Mosse: That’s unusual for childhood cancer because usually it’s difficult to find pharmaceutical companies who are willing to focus on our very rare subset of cancers.

    Mosse expects to begin testing the medication in children with neuroblastoma starting in six months. Kerry Grens, WHYY news.

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