Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

AACR: Genomics and Pediatric Cancers


At the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Chicago this week, the AACR-ASCO Presidential Symposium focused on research into pediatric cancers. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's James Downing was on hand to talk about how researchers have been able to unravel these diseases using sequencing. There are marked differences in the kinds of cancers that occur between adults and children, Downing said, and genomics has helped researchers understand those differences, and the different treatments that go along with them. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a good example — the survival rate for childhood ALL is now over 90 percent, Downing said, and this is partly due to effective uses of combination therapies, the stratification of patients into different genetic subgroups, the application of molecular diagnostics, and adjusting therapy based on the results. Over the last five years using genome-wide approaches, researchers have made a number of discoveries that have provided new diagnostic and prognostic markers for ALL, he added.

St. Jude's Ching-Hon Pui added that a patient's response to treatment is the most important prognostic factor, and that genomic techniques are now being used to determine treatment response more sensitively and specifically than the traditional morphological approaches. Individualizing dosages reduces toxicity without compromising efficacy, he said, and genomics can also help limit the use of treatments that are associated with late complications and secondary tumors.

Smita Bhatia, from the City of Hope NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, said survivors of childhood cancers also have a lot of survival complications like secondary tumors, cardiac complications and lung dysfunction because of radiation and chemotherapy. The focus now is using molecular techniques to understand etiology and pathogenesis of adverse effects and how to prevent them, she said. City of Hope has established mechanisms to identify key adverse events and bank DNA and RNA from the patients who suffer them, as well as matched controls, in an attempt to look for genetic susceptibility associated with these events, she added.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.