Molecular Genetics of Childhood Leukemias

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Purpose: This review summarizes the molecular genetics of childhood leukemias, with emphasis on pathogenesis and clinical applications.Design: We first describe the most common genetic events that occur in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). We then illustrate how these molecular alterations may be used to alter therapy.Results: In childhood ALL, the TEL-AML1 fusion and hyperdiploidy are both associated with excellent treatment outcomes and therefore identify patients who may be candidates for less intensive therapy. In contrast, MLL gene rearrangements and the BCR-ABL fusion confer a poor prognosis; these patients may be best treated by allogeneic bone marrow transplantation in first remission.Conclusions: Although clinical features are important prognostic indicators, genetic alterations of leukemic blasts may be better predictors of outcome for acute leukemia patients. We therefore favor risk-adapted therapy based on classification schemes that incorporate both genetic and clinical features.

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