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Genome Sequencing Reveals Secret in Childhood Cancer

scientist with test tubesSurviving childhood cancer is both a victory and relief for the whole family of those afflicted. However, childhood cancer survivors are at an increased risk of developing unrelated cancers later in life. This is often believed to be a result of cancer treatment.

The study of more than 3,000 adult survivors of childhood cancer was conducted by researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, who presented it at the 2017 American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting. They say the purpose of the study was to determine whether genetic predisposition plays a role in developing subsequent cancer.

What Are the Results of the Genome Study?

They analyzed the genetic information of these childhood cancer survivors for germline mutations and 156 genes associated with increased cancer risk. Of these genes, 60 are inherited and require a mutation in only one copy of a gene to cause cancer predisposition.

Twelve percent of long-term survivors of childhood cancer develop genetic mutations associated with other forms of cancer.

A mutation in one of the 156 genes was present in 12 percent of the survivors. Approximately six percent had a mutation in one of the 60 cancer-predisposition genes. Genes associated with breast cancer were the most commonly mutated genes.

How Can Genome Sequencing Help a Childhood Cancer Survivor?

Considering 12 percent of childhood cancer survivors are at an increased risk for developing another cancer later in life, the study authors recommend regular cancer screening for survivors. While a whole genome analysis may not be necessary, genetic screening and counseling are beneficial.

The researchers also believe that these findings will benefit the development of personalized therapeutic treatments based on genetic profiles for children recently diagnosed with cancer. A child’s potential susceptibility to other cancers later in life can be taken into account when planning their current treatment.