Possible good news regarding leukemia…
A study of four-year-old twin girls has identified a rogue cell which is the root cause of childhood leukemia.
The finding could mean more specific and less intensive treatments for all children with the blood cancer.
Both twins were found to have the “pre-leukemic” cells in their bone marrow, although to date only one has developed leukemia.
UK researchers reported in Science that a second genetic mutation is needed for full-blown disease to develop.
Leukemia occurs when large numbers of white blood cells take over the bone marrow leaving the body unable to produce enough normal blood cells.
Along with lymphoma it accounts for almost half of childhood cancers.
Olivia Murphy, from Bromley in Kent, developed acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was two-years old – but so far her twin sister, Isabella, is healthy.
Researchers found they both have “pre-leukemic stem cells” containing a mutated gene, which forms when the DNA is broken and rejoined at another point.
The pre-leukemic cells are transferred from one twin to the other in the womb through their shared blood supply.
But it takes another genetic mutation in early childhood for the cells to cause disease.
This second mutation, which may be caused by infection, occurred in Olivia but not Isabella.
Doctors do regular tests on Isabella to look for signs of the cancer but once she reaches adolescence it is thought the rogue cells will disappear.